Adult stem cells may be able to cure end-stage Age-Related Macular Degeneration, an illness that can cause permanent blindness, according to a recent study involving mice.

What did the study entail?

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan had used stem cells collected from the skin of adult mice to create new retina tissue in the lab, which was later transplanted into mice that had the retinal illness. According to studies, these mice were able to regain the ability to see the light after the procedure.

The scientists were able to test the mice using what is called the shuttle avoidance test.

The mice were placed within an insulated box with two chambers that contained a slit and had been trained to go through the slit to avoid an electric shot, using sound and light warnings. Reportedly, four out of ten mice that had a transplant in one eye, and five out of eleven mice that had transplants in both eyes were able to sense the light signal. The findings had been published in Stem Cell Reports.

What does this mean for humans?

This is believed to be the first time researchers have been able to transplant the light receptors, or the light-sensing cells, in a way that connects them to the host's nervous system and connect it to the host's brain.

It is currently unknown how these findings can be applied to humans.

Reportedly, testing it in humans will be a long way off, due to the fact that human retinas take a longer time to mature than those found within mice, normally five or six months. Dr Michiko Mandai, who was an author of the study, said in a released statement that the findings do look “promising,” but said things could only be proven in a later study involving humans.

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Added to that, there is still more work that the researchers intend to do with the mice, who appear to only sense little more than a difference between light and darkness. Their next goal is to hopefully be able to increase the number of connections between the cells in the host's retina and the stem cells, which would allow the mice to sense more with their eyes, such as a large figure or movement.