Making a mesh

Stem cell treatments could restore trabecular meshwork in glaucoma patients


Mice with glaucoma were able to maintain normal intraocular pressure (IOP) after receiving a stem cell transplant to restore their eye’s trabecular meshwork.

The transplants improved the quality of the trabecular meshwork tissue, boosting the aqueous humour outflow and protecting the retinal ganglion cells, according to the paper published in the journal PNAS.

In the early stage study, scientists in the US city of Iowa created stem cells, and then differentiated them into “trabecular meshwork-like cells.” These cells were then transplanted into the anterior chamber of the eyes of mice with glaucoma.

Alongside a group that did not have the transplant, these mice were monitored for nine weeks.

The transplanted cells divided and helped to restore the trabecular meshwork tissue, which in turn restored this tissue’s ability to maintain normal IOP. Consequently, there was a significant reduction in the IOP in the mice with glaucoma that received the transplants, the paper outlined.

The scientists, including University of Iowa associate professor, Dr Markus Kuehn, concluded in the paper that the method had potential as a human therapy.

Dr Kuehn told OT that the approach was most likely to be suitable for primary open-angle glaucoma, adding: “Cases of angle-closure glaucoma or congenital glaucoma are unlikely to benefit.”

He also explained that the studies used “middle-aged” mice.

“My lab is currently working to demonstrate that it is also possible to restore aqueous humour outflow in older mice with more entrenched glaucomatous changes in the trabecular meshwork,” he said.

“We are also in the process of demonstrating that the same approach can work in humans. For this we are using an ex-vivo perfusion culture system and human donor eyes,” Dr Kuehn outlined.