Sun, May 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Researchers probe vision

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Medical researchers using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology have discovered that the antioxidant properties of curcumin could help treat macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is a medical condition that can result in blurred or loss of central vision in one or both eyes. People with the condition are often unable to see fine details.

It is the leading cause of blindness in people over 55 in developed countries.

Researchers from Taipei Veterans’ General Hospital and National Taiwan University Hospital yesterday said there is not an effective treatment for inherited macular degeneration, which usually affects children or teenagers, but the discovery might be used to develop new treatments.

Ophthalmologist Chiou Shih-hwa (邱士華) said macular degeneration can be age-related or inherited, and while age-related degeneration can be delayed or improved with treatment, inherited macular degeneration still lacks effective treatment methods.

Researchers used iPSC technology — reprogramming adult cells into pluripotent stem cells that have the same properties as embryonic stem cells — to grow retinal pigment epithelium cells that reflect certain observable genetic characteristics or traits of macular degeneration, and used these patient-specific iPSCs as models to test the treatment.

Chiou said that curcumin, a yellow pigment derived mostly from turmeric, produces a protective effect in the patient-specific iPSCs.

Researchers also improved on intravitreal injections by using nanocarriers to deliver curcumin into a patient’s vitreous body in the eye to extend drug effects.

Curcumin is thought to be only one way of improving macular degeneration treatment, Chiou said, adding that researchers hope to use iPSC technology to repair the retina so a person could regain their eyesight.

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