Scientists have used stem cells to create a model of macular degeneration for the first time.
In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the University of Rochester researchers collected skin cells from patients with genetic forms of macular degeneration.
They then reprogrammed the cells to become stem cells and used the stem cells to create retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells.
When aged in a dish, these cells displayed several characteristics of macular degeneration, including the production of deposits similar to Drusen.
The research team were able to show for the first time that dysfunctional RPE cells can cause specific elements of macular degeneration on their own, without involvement of other cells within the retina.
Study author, Dr Ruchira Singh, highlighted that the research supported the development of treatments targeting RPE cells as well as providing an improved model to test these treatments on.