Prospects of Stem Cells for Retinal Diseases
Retinal diseases, including glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration, are the leading causes of irreversible visual impairment and blindness in developed countries. Traditional and current treatment regimens are based on surgical or medical interventions to slow down the disease progression. However, the number of retinal cells would continue to diminish, and the diseases could not be completely cured. There is an emerging role of stem cells in retinal research. The stem cell therapy on retinal diseases is based on 2 theories: cell replacement therapy and neuroprotective effect. The former hypothesizes that new retinal cells could be regenerated from stem cells to substitute the damaged cells in the diseased retina, whereas the latter believes that the paracrine effects of stem cells modulate the microenvironments of the diseased retina so as to protect the retinal neurons. This article summarizes the choice of stem cells in retinal research. Moreover, the current progress of retinal research on stem cells and the clinical applications of stem cells on retinal diseases are reviewed. In addition, potential challenges and future prospects of retinal stem cell research are discussed.