STEM CELL THERAPY AS A POTENTIAL TREATMENT FOR GLAUCOMA
Glaucoma is a common eye disease that can cause irreversible damage if left undiagnosed and untreated. It is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases causing blindness. Pre-clinical studies have been carried out on animal models of glaucoma for stem cell therapy. We carried out a systematic review to determine whether stem cell therapy had the potential to treat glaucoma. Nine studies were selected based on the predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Of these nine studies, eight focused on neuroprotection conferred by stem cells, and the remaining one on neuroregeneration. Results from these studies showed that there was a potential in stem cell based therapy in treating glaucoma, especially regarding neuroprotection via neurotrophic factors. The studies revealed that a brain-derived neurotrophic factor expressed by stem cells promoted the survival of retinal ganglion cells in murine glaucoma models. The transplanted cells survived without any side effects. While these studies proved that stem cells provided neuroprotection in glaucoma, improvement of vision could not be determined. Clinical studies would be required to determine whether the protection of RGC correlated with improvement in visual function. Furthermore, these murine studies could not be translated into clinical therapy due to the heterogeneity of the experimental methods and the use of different cell lines. In conclusion, the use of stem cells in the clinical therapy of glaucoma will be an important step in the future as it will transform present-day treatment with the hope of restoring sight to patients with glaucoma.
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