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Re-growing retinas with skin’s stem cells

For the first time, scientists from Boston’s Schepens Eye Research Institute have used stem cells derived from skin to re-grow areas of the retina and improve vision. The results hold great promise for future treatments and cures for diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases that affect millions worldwide.

Budd A Tucker together with Michael J Young harvested skin cells from the tails of red fluorescent mice. They used red mice, because the red tissue would be easy to track when transplanted in the eyes of non-fluorescent diseased mice.

By forcing these cells to express the four Yamanaka transcription factors (named for their discoverer) the group generated red fluorescent ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’, and, with additional chemical coaxing, precursors of retinal cells. Precursor cells are immature photoreceptors that only mature in their natural habitat — the eye.

Within 33 days the cells were ready to be transplanted and were introduced into the eyes of a mouse model of retina degenerative disease. Due to a genetic mutation, the retinas of these recipient mice quickly degenerate, the photoreceptor cells die and at the time of transplant electrical activity, as detected by ERG (electroretinography), is absent.

Within four to six weeks, the researchers observed that the transplanted ‘red’ cells had taken up residence in the appropriate retinal area (photoreceptor layer) of the eye and had begun to integrate and assemble into healthily looking retinal tissue.

Computer games help recover from paralysis post stroke

A recent study has revealed that computer games can speed up a patient’s recovery from paralysis after a stroke.

American scientists have found that computer simulations and cutting edge techniques to produce computer-generated action could restore lost function of an impaired arm.

The volunteers who used these computer games and robotic training aids showed signs of regaining hand and arm movement together, unlike training session which concentrate on the two separately.

The games, Plasma Pong and Hammer Task, were used to improve hand/arm coordination, accuracy and speed, while the Virtual Piano and Hummingbird Hunt simulations helped to restore precision of grip and individual finger motion.

It was noticed that after training for two-three hours a day for eight days, all of the patients showed increased control of hand and arm during reaching.

They all showed better stability of the damaged limb and greater smoothness and efficiency of movement.
Kinematic analysis also showed that they also had improved control over their fingers and were quicker at all test tasks.

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