ARVO Statement on Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research offers new avenues for the development of major therapeutic strategies for diseases in which the damage or loss of particular types of cells in the eye causes severe vision loss and even blindness. The cells lost in these diseases often cannot be replaced, and many of these diseases and their complications are currently incurable. The development of therapies involving stem cell transplantation could lead to the replacement of missing or non-functional cells including: corneal endothelium in various types of corneal dystrophies; trabecular meshwork cells and retinal ganglion cells in glaucoma; retinal photoreceptors and pigment epithelium in hereditary retinal degenerations and age-related macular degeneration; and retinal and choroidal capillary endothelium in several diseases, including diabetic retinopathy.

Collectively, these diseases account for much of the currently irreversible visual loss and blindness in both the developed and developing nations, and their present therapy has many shortcomings including absent or suboptimal efficacy, major risks and side effects, and cost. Since the most prevalent of these conditions develop or become more severe with age, the magnitude of the problem will increase as we all live longer.

Stem cell research, particularly research utilizing embryonic stem cells, offers unique opportunities for improvements in treating these diseases and alleviating the disability, suffering, and economic loss they inflict upon individuals, their families, and the entire society. For this potential therapy to become reality, however, much research is still needed to discover the mechanisms that control the development of stem cells into particular cell types and allow them to integrate into the damaged eye.

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) therefore strongly supports technological developments and policies that enable and encourage all facets of stem cell research.

Headquartered in Rockville, MD, The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the world's largest and pre-eminent vision research organization, with over 12,600 members representing 80 countries.

Approved: ARVO Board of Trustees – February 2, 2005
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