Research and development is actually a huge branch of modern development, especially in manufacturing and health related industries. Life science research is used to perform extensive research on numerous generic diseases such as Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited disease that causes slow degenerative blindness. Basically, essential retinal cells accumulate defects due to one or more of the mutated genes. It is currently incurable, but life science research utilizing stems cells is making headway. It purports to use properly formed retinal cells to treat the condition. Stem cells, usually embryonic, are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to become any cell in the body. When they are injected into the affected tissue, in this case, retinal tissue, the surrounding cells direct the stem cells to develop into the correct cell type. In the case of the retina, injecting a stem cell in the deep layers of the retina can potentially lead to the recreation of photoreceptors which are needed for sight.

Current life science research studies show that stem cells are also found in adult circulating blood and blood donation alone is adequate for collecting stem cells in some cases. Stem cells are the building blocks of the human body. All the tissues of the body, the heart, lung, brain and even the eye, are made from the same stem cell. Basically, they have the potential to create any cell type and be used to cure any inherited disease. In the case of retinitis pigmentosa, the main cells damaged are the photoreceptors, the cells that convert light to the electrical signal that is sent to the brain, creating images that we see. The latest life science research and how we are beginning to treat blinding diseases with stem cell therapy can potentially restore sight to those affected.

The retina lines the back of the eye and is lined with blood vessels and neurons that connect to the optic nerve which contains the ganglion cell axons that connect the ganglion cells to the brain. These are the neurons that transmit images to the brain and they are located in the innermost region of the retina and extend toward the lens. The photoreceptors, the rod and cone shaped cells, are closer to the back of the eye. Thus, light must penetrate the nerve cells within the retina before reaching and activating the rods and cones. Once reached, the rods and cones absorb photons through their visual pigments and translate this message into an electrical message for the retina. From there, our brain is responsible for identifying, processing and interpreting that visual image. Without this ability, we can’t see. The use of adult stem cells in life science research is currently controversial because it involves destroying an embryo. To make it less so, it has been found that adult stem cells can be isolated from adult tissue samples as well as from umbilical cord blood following birth. Either way, let’s hope scientists make headway soon so they can restore sight to those afflicted with this disease.

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