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Stem cells offer potential treatment of diabetic retinopathy

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The University of Virginia School of Medicine is currently researching a potential stem cell therapy to treat diabetic retinopathy. A successful therapy would hopefully save the vision of millions of patients and offer a viable alternative to the current treatments of either laser therapy or monthly injections. The research involved using stem cells derived from fat. These cells were injected into the vitreous of the eyes of mice. Many of the cells made their way back to the retina where they assimilated and behaved like pericytes (cells that sustain the blood vessels at the back of the eye). It is the loss of blood vessels at the back of the eye that leads to vision loss. If this stem cell therapy is found to be both safe and effective, it has cost-saving benefits. One benefit is that the fat cells are abundant and fairly easy to harvest and the second benefit is that since they would most likely be obtained from the person receiving the injection, there is no fear of the body's immune response.

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