In our psychology class, we learned how miraculous and complex our sight is in our daily lives. Contrary to popular beliefs, we don't see a direct representation of reality but rather an interpretation formed by our biological systems in the eyes and the brain. We highly depend on this interpretation in order to maneuver through the world around us. In addition, our sight is a significant function because it allows us to recognize the color, shape, and the texture of objects so that we can conceptualize our surroundings.
However, a staggering 40 million people have had their sight taken away from them because of blindness. According to the World Health Organization, cataracts and glaucoma are a few of the leading causes of blindness. With the increase of diabetes in the United States, it's important to note that diabetic retinopathy is another cause of vision loss. As a type 1 diabetic, the thought of losing my vision when I'm older is always in the back of my mind. Since diabetic retinopathy is currently incurable, I can't help but wonder what life would be like without the joy of seeing the awe inspiring sights of the world and simply the faces of my loved ones. Nonetheless, I usually snap out of that mind-set and remember that each day is a new beginning.
Yet as I sit here and ponder about the future, I wonder if there are any new medical strives to help cure blindness caused by the damage of the retina. Luckily, there's still hope out there. I recently came across a nifty article that announces the first human embryonic stem cell trial in Europe for patients with a progressive form of blindness called Stargardt's Macular Dystrophy. A United States firm has gained the approval from regulators in Europe, which will allow British surgeons to inject embryonic stem cells into patients' retinas. There is a potential that a whole range of disorders of the retina will benefit from the replacement of retinal cells. On the other hand, the trial remains highly controversial because the cells are derived from human embryonic stem cells. As a society, it all boils down to whether or not we are willing to make those sacrifices.