What is a retinal transplant and is there any research being carried out on it?

Several groups around the world are investigating the use of retinal transplantation in the treatment of inherited retinal diseases. These transplants do not involve transplanting the entire retina, as this would be extremely difficult. The transplanted tissue is placed at the central retina (the macula), the area used for detailed reading vision and central visual field.

A small trial has been conducted in the USA assessing the potential benefit of transplanting developing retinal cells. Researchers reported that implanting a sheet of developing foetal retinal and retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells under the macula of six patients with RP and four patients with age-related macular degeneration improved visual acuity in three of the RP and two of AMD patients. It was thought that transplanting retinal cells with their underlying supportive RPE cell layer might be more effective than implanting a sheet of retinal cells alone.

This study has not been repeated or extended suggesting that it has limited use for several reasons, including the challenges of obtaining sufficient foetal material for transplantation. It is also currently not known how this treatment works. It may be via the production of growth factors by the transplanted foetal tissue that nourishes the remaining retinal cells.

The majority of researchers in the field do not believe that this is likely to be a viable and effective strategy to replace lost retinal cells in the future.

Further information on research into sight loss can be found on the Retina UK website.

Did this answer your question?

Related questions

Brought to you by