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Stem-cell therapy for glaucoma an update

Stem-cell therapy for glaucoma – an update

Monday 03 July 2017

Stem cell therapy is proving to be a potent force in regenerative medicine, not least in the treatment of eye conditions. For example, in a pioneering clinical trial last year, a patient with macular degeneration was treated using lab-grown stem cells at University College London (see our blog - In a recent interview for the Glaucoma Research Foundation, leading authority Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg gave an update on stem-cell therapies for glaucoma. Here are some of the highlights:  

Q: How might stem cells be helpful for patients with glaucoma?

  A: For protecting or restoring vision, we really need to talk about stem cells in the back of the eye, at the retina. There, stem cells may have two positive effects. First, early in the disease, they may protect retinal ganglion cells from degenerating — providing a neuroprotective effect. Later in the disease when patients have lost considerable numbers of retinal ganglion cells and optic nerve axons, and have thereby lost considerable vision, stem cells may be useful to replace lost ganglion cells and restore the connections from the eye to the brain.  

Q. What is the current status of research on stem cell therapy for glaucoma?

  A. We and others have discovered molecular pathways that can be used to coax stem cells to turn into neurons that look and act like real retinal ganglion cells. This will allow us to turn large numbers of stem cells into retinal ganglion cells for cell replacement therapy. Second, we are just beginning to make progress in transplanting retinal ganglion cells into the retina in pre-clinical models.  

Q. Are you aware of any studies in which stem cell therapy stabilized or reversed vision loss from glaucoma?

  A. Stem cells have not yet been properly tested in patients with glaucoma to look for their ability to stabilize or reverse vision loss. The careful move from the laboratory to clinical testing is still ahead of us.  

Q. Would you recommend stem cell therapy at this time?

  A.I am often asked by my patients if they should sign up for a patient-funded trial for stem cells for glaucoma, and I am in the habit of counseling against this. I am not aware of any properly designed stem cell trials for glaucoma with well-tested cell therapies being moved to human testing at this time, but I do think these will come.  

Q. Are there any risks or complications reported with stem cell therapy for glaucoma?

  A. Indeed the risks for undergoing stem cell injections in any trial could be significant. Risks of infection, inflammation, and more severe vision loss will always be present. (We need) proper testing in pre-clinical models before moving to human testing. Then, with properly designed and sequenced trials, I believe cell therapies can be safely tested in the eye as with the rest of the body. Indeed there are a number of cell therapies for macular degeneration already in human testing with a reassuring safety record thus far.

For a full transcript of this interview, please visit


  1. Glaucoma Research Foundation:
    Stem Cell Therapy for Glaucoma - Are We There Yet?.

  2. Future Focus:
    Stem Cell Treatment for Glaucoma.



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  • Ursula
    31 Mar 2018

    It proved difficult to get a regular supply of non-allergic medication for glaucoma, and the capsules in which it is supplied tend to drip while administering it so that the dose varies from one application to the next.

    Serious Readers reply:

    Thank you Ursula for your feedback. Serious Readers curate information, and as such our blogs offer a snapshot of news in the world of light and sight. For more information on the eyedrops you mention, we suggest that you contact an eyecare professional. Your optician would be a good first port of call.

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