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Stem Cell Treatment For Blindness Works, and Is Safe

Illustration for article titled Stem Cell Treatment For Blindness Works, and Is Safe

Stem cell research, while controversial, has always been touted as the future of disease treatment. There's more evidence to support that claim, as it turns out that stem cell treatment can help cure blindness.

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There are several clinical trials underway to assess how well such treatments work, but this week US-based Advanced Cell Technology announced their first results. It turns out that, four months after stem cells were injected into the eyes of two patients, the treatment seems safe, reports Medical Daily.

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What's more, the team also report visual improvements in the patients. The company says that it should be able to use the treatment on patients with currently incurable blindness — like age-related macular degeneration in older patients and Stargardt's Disease.

The treatment uses the most controversial embryonic stem cells, which are manipulated in a way that allows them to grow into the types of cells that line the retina at the back of the eye. The two patients were both given an injection consisting of 50,000 retinal cells into one of their eyes.

The cells attached to the retinal membrane, and still survive four months later. The researchers have stated that the procedure seems safe, providing no signs of rejection, and results show that patients' vision improved slightly.

Although embryonic stem cell research is incredibly controversial, there is no denying that curing blindness is an extremely impressive scientific advance. [Medical Daily via Slashdot; Image: Marta Starbucks]

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DISCUSSION

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The implications of this are enormous!!

-I'm fairly certain this is the first medical trial conducted on humans using embryonic stem cells that has been successful. They don't know if the treatment is a true cure, or if it will have to be sustained with routine treatments.

-Stem Cells essentially have immortal DNA; stem cells are able to reproduce indefinitely* and act as a repair cell within most tissues.

-When Embryonic Stem Cells are introduced to a host tissue or cell they begin to differentiate and turn into specific cells by changing their own DNA. They continue to change their DNA during replication and ultimately become a specialized stem cell for whatever tissue.

-These specialized stem cells are somatic/adult stem cells. It is nearly impossible to use somatic stem cells for treatments and medical remedy as they have undergone multiple generations of replication and DNA reorganization. Embryonic stem cells however are basically blank, waiting to be programmed to serve whatever function they are needed for.

-Embryonic stem cells come from embryos fertilized in vitro, not fertilized with a human body.

-These studies will take years, much is not understood about the transcription and replication of DNA within embryonic stem cells

Finally... vote republican, and it all goes away :(