Blindness Cure: UK Scientists Working On Stem-Cell Breakthrough Treatment

First Posted: Sep 29, 2015 11:41 AM EDT

The London Project to Cure Blindness developed a trial for a new treatment that's derived from stem cells to treat ‘wet' age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and the trial is currently taking place at the Moorfields Eye Hospital after the successful outcome on a patient dealing with the health issue.

"There is real potential that people with wet age-related macular degeneration will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells," says retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz from Moorfields Eye Hospital, who is performing the operations and is co-leading the London Project, in a news release. Though the London Project to Cure Blindness was established 10 years ago, this first operation represents a major milestone, according to researchers, with an aim to cure vision in patients who lost their sight to wet AMD.

In the trial, researchers are investigating the safety and efficacy of transplanting eye cells (retinal pigment epithelium) to treat those with sudden severe visual loss from wet AMD--cells that are used to replace those found at the back of the eye that are also diseased in AMD; this is done when using a specially engineered patch that's inserted behind the retina in an operation lasting one to two hours, researchers say.

While in macular degeneration, the RPE cells die and the eye loses its function, patients dealing with wet AMD lose their central vision, which becomes distorted and blurred.

"This is truly a regenerative project. In the past it's been impossible to replace lost neural cells," Da Cruz adds."If we can deliver the very layer of cells that is missing and give them their function back this would be of enormous benefit to people with the sight-threatening condition".

The trial will recruit 10 patients in a period of over 18 months. Each patient will then be followed for a year to assess safety and stability of the cells, as well as determine whether there is an effect in restoring vision.

If successful, researchers are hopeful that it could help patients in the early stages of dry AMD.

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