Scientists at the Ottawa Health Research Institute have been awarded $2.4 million to develop stem-cell therapies that could reverse blindness.
The five-year grant is to help researchers develop better methods for turning stem cells, harvested from human embryos and from patients themselves, into different kinds of eye cells.
If successful, this form of stem-cell therapy would take medicine one more step toward rebuilding the body’s sick and damaged parts.
The treatment could benefit more than one million Canadians affected by degenerative eye diseases.
The funding was awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Canada’s largest private charity for vision research.
Another $700,000 from the federally funded Stem Cell Network would help move the research from labs to clinics.
Stem cells can give rise to any type of specialized cell in the body. Scientists are grappling with how to coax these cells into differentiating before trying the treatment on patients.
They are also unclear about whether human embryonic stem cells, which are controversial because they are harvested from fetuses, are more effective in organ renewal than so-called adult stem cells, which are harvested from patients themselves.
The goal is to perfect the research enough to start human clinical trials within five years.
from Calgary Herald