Macular diseases are a group of rare diseases involving the eye, the most common of which being macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is an eye disease due to failure of the macula, the part of the retina used to see fine detail such as for reading, seeing faces, colors, and motor skills like driving.
The disease has two types: wet, which can cause sudden vision loss, accounting for 10% of cases; and dry, in which patients expression gradual visual decline, making up almost 90% of cases. The main symptom is vision loss, which results in needing brighter light, difficulty reading print, and trouble recognizing faces. The disease is thought to be caused be a mix of genetic and environmental features including smoking and lack of vitamins. Macular degeneration is the most common reason for visual decline and blindness in America.
Growing Retinas from Stem Cells
“Our hope is that this study will give us a better understanding of human macular formation, which we can then use to generate structures for transplantation for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration and other macular dystrophies. To be able to give back any vision to someone who has lost it is so important, but it would be particularly significant to improve vision in the macula, as we are trying to do in this project, because that’s the region upon which we are so dependent on for our high acuity vision. This means reading, seeing people’s faces, all of those tasks which we tend to take for granted. It’s so important for independence.”
What Needs to Happen in the Lab Next
“We know from our recent Time to Focus research report that the prevalence of these conditions is on the rise. If successful, this research paves the way for future transplantation research and possibilities and has the potential to transform the lives of countless people with macular disease.”
“My diagnosis has had a huge impact on my life. It’s always at the back of my mind. I look at my little boys and I think: ‘What am I going to miss when they’re older?’ To be suddenly told you have an eye condition but that there’s nothing that can be done about it because it’s incurable is the hardest thing for me. Any research into a cure or treatment for Stargardt disease and other macular conditions gives me hope for the future and hope is what you have to cling on to when you have a progressive sight loss condition like this.”