Umbilical Cord Cells May Help Cure Macular Degeneration

Umbilical Cord Cells May Help Cure Macular Degeneration

The human body continues to astound as scientists forge ahead with research on how umbilical cord cells fight macular degeneration. Umbilical cord blood can be used to create original stem cells that, under the right conditions, have shown promise in eradicating certain diseases in some people. However, adding these cells to the retina brings recent promising research results that are another nail in the coffin of macular degeneration. This is good news, especially for those suffering with AMD (age-related macular degeneration) which robs so many of their elder years. 

According to Bright Focus, 

  • Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.
  • Age-related macular degeneration is an irreversible destruction of the macula, which leads to loss of the sharp, fine-detail, “straight ahead” vision required for activities like reading, driving, recognizing faces, and seeing the world in color.
  • As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration. This number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050.

As human trials get closer to a reality, research of human umbilical tissue-derived cells (hUTCs) may help cure macular degeneration. This could revolutionize treatment helping millions to see again while keeping the rest, out of harm’s way. 

Electrical Channels

Sensory cell renewal is something scientists are working with in the human eye. This has allowed for a possible delivery system of sight saving drugs rather than guessing where to administer. However, they may also be able to move hUTCs to the most affected part of the retina, the RPE (retinal pigment epithelium). A study by researchers in Finland unveiled cellular components in the RPE that were thought only to work when electrical channels were firing. 

According to Soile Nymark, Academy of Finland Research Fellow from Tampere University, Finland, 

“The research project focused on the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a tissue that is critically important to the functioning of the retina. The project revealed proteins in the RPE whose function is essential for neural tissue, but whose prevalence or activity in epithelial tissue has not been previously reported,” 

Drug Target Review reported, 

“The new discovery reveals how the ion channel proteins responsible for the electrical signaling of neurons influence the phagocytosis process [ingest or engulf other cells or particles]. This is impaired in many retinal degenerative diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).”

So the electrical signaling function could be able to be manipulated to stop tissue destruction. This research may work alongside human umbilical tissue-derived cells to one day cure macular degeneration.

hUTC Research

Sometimes the mere title of certain research projects sounds promising. In a study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine (2018) the title reads, 

‘RPE Phagocytic Function Declines In Age-Related Macular Degeneration and is Rescued By Human Umbilical Tissue Derived Cells’. 

As mentioned human umbilical tissue derived cells (hUTC) are cells taken from post delivery cords to protect RPE cells, essential to healthy sight. Phagocytic dysfunction in this area has shown to destroy RPE’s leading to macular degeneration over time. 

The study conducted by researchers at the Department of Ophthalmology, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine and Janssen Research & Development concluded,

“We demonstrated for the first time RPE phagocytic dysfunction in AMD, highlighting its likely importance in AMD, and the ability of hUTC to correct this dysfunction, providing insights into the therapeutic potential of hUTC for AMD.”

The study’s lead author, George Inana, MD, PhD, commented, 

“This is significant because the proof is presented of a novel, long-suspected mechanism for the pathogenesis of AMD—namely a defect in phagocytosis by the RPE—along with dramatic efficacy of hUTC in correcting this defect, which highlights the potential therapeutic value of hUTC for AMD,” 

In the study, hUTC’s were injected sub-retinally (under the retina) adhering to a specific protocol as per each participating group. hUTC’s are different from umbilical cord blood cells as they are isolated from cord tissue itself, rather than the blood. However, umbilical cord blood serum or UCS eyedrops also has healing capability.

Umbilical Cord Serum

It is short of astounding how umbilical cord compounds continue to treat various diseases and conditions. It is yet another testament to the incredible ability the human body holds which is particularly powerful during fetal development. Umbilical cord serum has been used to treat ocular diseases such as macular degeneration in the form of eyedrops. 

A study published in the Chonnam Medical Journal 

“Like peripheral blood serum, umbilical cord blood serum contains high concentration of essential tear components, growth factors, neurotrophic factors, vitamin A, fibronectin, prealbumin, and oil. Umbilical cord serum can provide basic nutrients for epithelial renewal and can facilitate the proliferation, migration, and differentiation of the ocular surface epithelium…Because mesenchymal stem cells from umbilical cord blood can be used to regenerate corneal tissue and retinal nerve cells, umbilical cord serum might be applied for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine in the future.”

Incidentally, researchers using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) for macular degeneration began the first human trials in America which began in January of 2019. These stem cells are described by STAT News as like, 

“…sending plain old adult cells back in time, biologically, until they’re like embryonic stem cells — but without the ethical baggage those cells carry.”

This gives rise to the question of ethics and availability of hUTCs for treatment of AMD. For now, public funding will not be allowable to propel government backed research. However, private labs, which are often funded by Big Corp interests, continue studies. Hopefully the USA will lead this research but due to political strife it may be another country that takes the lead. Watch for more progress on how human umbilical tissue-derived cells may help cure macular degeneration. 

In the meantime, if you are expecting a child you may want to consider umbilical cord blood storage. There are many companies that, for a nominal fee, will cryogenically hold your umbilical cord in a monitored, frozen state. This preserves its powerful healing capability which may save the life or sight of its DNA counterparts one day.