Researchers from University College London (UCL) and drug company AstraZeneca are joining together for a new study into using stem cells as a way of curing diabetic blindness . The research will investigate how medicines from stem cells could help repair damaged eyesight in diabetic patients with retinopathy, the most common cause of vision impairment or blindness among Western people of a working age.
The scientists from AstraZeneca and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology will look for new treatments that take advantage of the regenerative capacity of stem cells, aiming to come up with a treatment that is administered to the back of the eye so as to repair damage locally. They hope to develop a compound within the next five years, and which will be on the market within 10 years.
Most people with type 1 diabetes will undergo eyesight problems, with about 20–30 per cent becoming blind. In addition, more than half of all patients with the more common type 2 diabetes will also develop retinopathy over time.
Team leader, Marcus Fruttiger of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, commented “These tools could be used either to manufacture transplantable material or to directly stimulate new cell growth in the eye to help restore or improve the vision of those with diabetic retinopathy .”
Alan Lamont, director of sciences and technology alliances at AstraZenecan, added “We’re getting very keen on the whole area of regenerative medicines and they will be part of our research development over the next few years.”

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