Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) is a condition when the cells of the retina begin to decline in function, thereby, leading to impaired vision or even blindness. The retina is the portion of the back of the eye that contains the rods and cones. Rods help detect motion and black and white differences and cones help us distinguish colors. While our pets have different vision perception than we as humans do, they do have the same anatomical structure of the retina. SARDS can be due to diet, infection that has spread to the retina, genetic (progressive) conditions or degenerative conditions that develop, such as glaucoma. In the case of SARDS, there is no known cause, but is likely autoimmune.

Symptoms

Symptoms can include reluctance to use stairs, clumsiness (bumping into things), dilated pupils (or pupils that react strangely), night blindness (that progressively worsens), and sudden blindness.

Breed Specific

SARDS tends to affect middle aged, female dogs. Most commonly seen in Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers and mixed breeds; whereas, mixed breeds are at a higher than average risk.

Common Treatment Protocol

Screening tools are available that can detect the disease prior to an physical, outward signs. Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment or medication for this disease.

Due to ongoing research into similar diseases in humans, there is now hope for our pets with stem cell therapy.

Stem Cell Treatment

The eye has special protections not afforded to other organs, however, that makes it more difficult to treat with stem cells. There is a blood retinal barrier that prevents substances (and stem cells) from entering the eyes from the blood. Therefore, IV injections of stem cells are not as effective as we would like. Because SARDS may be an immune mediated disease, IV cells may ameliorate the progression of the immune attack, but they will not be able to help the retina heal or regenerate.

Through clinical trial research in humans, injections directly into the vitreous of the eye have been a good method of delivery of medications to the retina. This method has also worked well with stem cells, but there is an unacceptable level of adverse reactions and scar tissue that can form in some cases, resulting in permanent blindness.

Recently, a method of injection into the tissues capsule (choroid) of the eye has been shown as a safe, effective delivery method for stem cell application. Safari is working to develop these delivery methods so pets with SARDS can benefit from the most advanced and safe methods for treating these terrible diseases. Currently, at Safari, SARDS is treated as an immune system disease with IV injections of stem cells injected into the back of the eye.

The sooner stem cells are given in the course of this disease, the better the pet responds to treatment. If we wait too long, even stem cells cannot restore vision.

Further Reading

PDF ICON Stem Cell Treatment in Retinal Diseases: Recent Developments
The Suprachoroidal Space: From Potential Space to a Space with Potential (Suprachoridal Injections)

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