Retinal Transplant for Macular Degeneration

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Almost everyday I have someone ask me if it possible to do a retinal transplant for people who suffer from vision loss due to macular degeneration. The answer has always been “not yet”. A recent post by Review of Optometry doesn’t change this answer, but it does offer some hope.

There are two glimpses of hope from this post. One is that a research team has discovered that they may be able to turn epithelial cells into stem cells. While most cells are programmed to grow into only a certain type if cell (skin, hair, teeth, muscle,etc) stem cells are a wild-card type of cell in our body that can develop into any tissue. This study is that this team has learned how to take skin cells and convert them into stem cells.

The second, and most exciting, part of this study is a leaked report from a research group which is currently carrying out studies on growing new retinas from stem cells in patients with macular degeneration. It reports that one patient had vision improve from 20/400 to 20/40. That is amazing because it changes a persons vision from being legally blind to being able to drive a car. So is it possible to do retinal transplants? The answer is yes, but it still may be years before this treatment is an option for patients.

Michael Nelson, Optometrist, Waverley Eye Care, Winnipeg

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Low Vision

Low Vision is basically when someones vision is reduced and cannot be improved with glasses or contacts.  Usually it is a result of some form of eye disease or condition.  The most common form cause of Low Vision is Macular Degeneration. 

Low Vision treatments basically involve using magnifiers or other optical devices to try to use the vision that the person still has.  Low Vision treatment does not improve vision or stop it from getting worse, this is managed by a patient’s Ophthalmologist.

Although Optometrists have by far the most amount of training and expertise in Low Vision, very few have taken the effort to add this to their services.  It was out of this lack of care available that I started Eye Canada, a sub-specialty business focusing solely on Low Vision.

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Michael Nelson, OD