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$3M Award to Develop Gene, Stem Cell Therapies for Common Eye Complication of Diabetes

Cedars-Sinai stem cell researchers have been awarded a $3M grant from the National Eye Institute to develop gene therapy in corneal stem cells to alleviate damage to corneas that can cause vision loss.

The Bottom Line: Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults.  In diabetic patients, something happens to the stem cells in the cornea. Cedars-Sinai researchers recently showed for the first time that diabetics’ corneal stem cells become abnormal because their corneas may stop producing certain proteins that enable normal functioning of corneal stem cells. By employing gene therapy, researchers aim to correct production of abnormal proteins in diabetics’ corneas in the hope that this treatment will restore stem cell functions, spurring normal corneal cell turnover and keeping the tissue healthy and transparent.