Cataracts Could Be Alleviated With Stem Cell Therapy

Cataracts Could Be Alleviated With Stem Cell Therapy

Cataracts are disease-causing cloudiness in the lens of the eye that can eventually lead to blindness if left untreated. Losing your vision can greatly decrease your quality of life, and limit the number of activities you can participate in. Many patients undergo invasive surgeries to heal their eyesight, which can lead to unwanted complications. Stem cell therapy is being explored as a new procedure for patients suffering from a loss of vision due to their cataracts. Stem cells could restore a patient’s vision by regenerating the cells that have been damaged and replacing them with healthy lens cells.


What Are Cataracts?


Cataracts are changes in clarity of the natural lens inside the eye that gradually degrades visual quality. The natural lens sits behind the colored part of the eye, called the iris, in the area of the pupil, and cannot be directly seen with the naked eye unless it becomes extremely cloudy. The lens is composed of several different layers. The outermost is the called the capsule. The layer inside the capsule is the cortex, and the innermost layer is the nucleus. A cataract may develop in any one of these areas.

Cataracts are named for the location they affect in the lens. A nuclear cataract is located in the center of the lens. The nucleus tends to darken, changing from clear to yellow and sometimes brown. A cortical cataract affects the layer of the lens surrounding the nucleus. The cataract looks like a wedge or a spoke. A posterior capsular cataract is found in the back outer layer of the lens. This type of cataract often develops more rapidly than others. The lens plays a crucial role in focusing unimpeded light on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina transforms light into a neurologic signal that the brain interprets as our sight.


Cataracts cause a cloudy or opaque area in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending upon its size and location, it can interfere with normal vision. Cataract development is usually a gradual process of normal aging, but can occasionally come on quickly with little warning. Many people are unaware that they have cataracts developing because the changes in their vision are so gradual. Cataracts affect both eyes, but it is not uncommon for cataracts in one eye to advance more rapidly than the other. There is no treatment to prevent or slow cataract progression, but surgical methods can remove them.


How Can Stem Cell Therapy Alleviate Cataracts?


The only successful treatment method for cataracts is often surgery. Many patients may be wary of a surgical procedure involving their eyesight. This is leading many to delay surgery until their vision is almost completely gone. Stem cell therapy is being researched as a new method of treatment for cataracts. The lens of the eye could be regenerated with stem cells, replacing the damaged cataract tissue with a new lens. This therapy method is not currently available for patients with cataracts but may offer future patients an alternative to surgery.

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