Glaucoma – The Sneak Thief Of Sight
Cell Therapy: A New Hope For Glaucoma
A disease leading to slow, painless loss of vision, Glaucoma commonly occurs due to abnormally high intraocular pressure (IOP) that damages the nerve connecting the eye to the brain (optic nerve).
The vision loss in Glaucoma occurs insidiously and with few other symptoms. Thus, it has been aptly called the “sneak thief of sight”. As per the World Health Organization, it is the second most common cause of blindness worldwide and is expected to affect over 100 million people by 2040.
It is also the most common optic neuropathy.
What Are The Available Treatment Options ?
In conventional medicine, current treatment options include eye drops, oral medications, laser therapy, surgery, and drainage stents. These methods are primarily aimed at lowering the IOP and though they slow down the progression of damage to the optic nerve, they do not halt it.
It has been shown that about 15% of people suffering from glaucoma become blind in at least one eye within 20 years, despite treatment. Additionally, there is no regeneration of the optic nerve or improvement in vision.
How Can Cell Therapy Help Patients With Glaucoma ?
Vision loss occurs in glaucoma primarily due to damage and destruction of retinal ganglion cells. Cell Therapy can play a vital role in the treatment of glaucoma that holds the potential to restore vision.
Stem cells or precursor cells are already being used clinically to treat a multitude of conditions. They are characterised by their ability to regenerate ailing cells and this property can be useful for patients with glaucoma.
Not only do they have the potential to protect the structures of the eye from further damage, they can also potentially aid in replacing the damaged tissue.
Cell Therapy Can Aid In Multiple Ways :
By restoring the function of trabecular meshwork
The trabecular meshwork is the main constituent of the drainage pathway of aqueous humor and plays a pivotal role in determining and maintaining the IOP. Any disruption of the trabecular meshwork can lead to a rise in IOP, leading to glaucomatous changes in the eye.
Through cell therapy, the structure and function of trabecular meshwork can be restored and/or replaced, thus safeguarding the drainage of aqueous humor and preventing damage to the retinal cells.
By ensuring retinal neuroprotection
Along with the capacity to regenerate, live cells also secrete certain neurotrophic factors. Neurotrophic factors not only regulate the growth and differentiation of neurons but also exert a protective effect on them. Studies have also shown them to exert these protective effects on retinal ganglion cells. Since these are the key involved structures in glaucoma, cell therapy can help prevent this.
By replacing the damaged cells
Due to the self-regenerating property of live cells, transplanting them onto the retina can directly lead to regeneration of the damaged tissue. Functional retinal cells have been generated in vitro by using live cells and this has paved the way for clinical trials.
What Is Glaucoma ?
Glaucoma is a disease that more often than not, leads to blindness. It is normally diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination that could include patient history, visual acuity measurements, tonometry, pachymetry, visual field testing, evaluation of the eye retina and supplemental testing that may include gonioscopy.
Common risk factors include age, family history, co-existing eye diseases such as Myopia or Hyperopia, systemic diseases like Diabetes, hypertension, and use of steroids. It is crucial to cease its progression and cell therapy has shown promising results in this regard so far.
Cell Therapy not only can it stop the disease from worsening, it has the potential to restore the lost vision too. This will be a boon to the millions who are suffering from glaucoma today and are at risk in future.
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