Innovative retinal laser tested in in-vivo trial
15.12.2021 A stem cell treatment promises major advances in curing the eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In preparation for the administration of retinal cell treatments, certain parts of the retina can be removed beforehand. In trials, the application of the SPECTRALIS CENTAURUS retinal laser was tested on rabbits. It was developed by researchers at the Institute for Human Centered Engineering HuCE at Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH).
If a visual impairment occurs during old age, it is mostly due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The macula, also called the ‘yellow spot’, is an area in the centre of the retina where the visual cells are densely clustered, and is responsible for sharp vision. AMD occurs when these visual cells are destroyed by deposits of waste products of metabolism. Sufferers’ vision becomes increasingly unclear until they can eventually only see a dark spot in the centre of their field of vision. There is currently no way of treating the causes of AMD. Treatment of the retina – or more precisely the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) – with cells obtained from stem cells, is set to change that.
SPECTRALIS CENTAURUS retinal laser
The RPE is essential to the proper functioning of the neurosensory retina and a non-functional RPE is a major factor in AMD. In the new treatment method, stem cells are cultivated into RPE cells which replace the non-functional RPE cells after transplantation to the eye. While highly promising results have been obtained with the use of RPE stem cells to treat AMD, a method is still required for the prior removal of the diseased RPE cells. These cells must be removed to ensure the transplanted RPE cells can implant naturally in the intended position. The greatest challenge in this removal procedure is ensuring minimal impact on surrounding tissue, such as the photoreceptors directly above the RPE which are essential for sight. Trials on selective RPE removal have already been carried out using various surgical instruments. However, these methods are not satisfactory due to complications during use and unintended side-effects. This is where a device called SPECTRALIS CENTAURUS comes into play. It was developed by researchers at the Institute for Human Centered Engineering HuCE at Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH). They upgraded the SPECTRALIS imaging device manufactured by Heidelberg Engineering by adding a short-pulse treatment laser made by Thun-based firm Meridian Medical. The device aims to treat RPE selectively using a laser, providing an optimal complementary solution for use in the stem cell treatment protocol. A test has now been carried out for the first time to establish whether extensive RPE laser treatment on the retina can be used in preparation for stem cell treatment.
The use of SPECTRALIS CENTAURUS in stem cell transplantation to treat AMD was tested in an in-vivo study on rabbits. Besides researchers from HuCE, leading ophthalmologist and stem cell researcher Boris Stanzel took part in the trial, as well as researchers from the universities of Bern and Münster, the Fraunhofer-Institut and the Augenklinik Sulzbach.
A scientific review of the trial was published on 29 November in the peer-reviewed journal Translational Vision and Technology (TVST) of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).