Blindness is a debilitating condition, but despite progress in retinal implants there is no effective treatment. This stem cell therapy could change that.
Surgeons at a London hospital have carried out a pioneering trial, implanting a patch of specialised cells derived from embryonic stem cells. The efforts are courtesy of The London Project To Cure Blindness, which was established 8 years ago in an effort to cure age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A total of 10 patients will undergo the operation, and there's real hope it could turn out to be a cure.
What is AMD?
Age-related macular degeneration affects about 30-50 million people worldwide and overwhelmingly afflicts the elderly. It's caused by progressive damage to the retina and eats away at central vision, making everyday activities extremely challenging.
In patients with AMD, cells that form a layer called the retinal pigment epithelium die, and this has serious consequences. This layer feeds and sustains the photoreceptor cells in the macula, and without it they begin to degrade. This treatment aims to replenish the epithelium layer, and therefore restore vision.
The specialised cells were created from a donated embryo, but if the treatment proves effective in the future it may be possible to use the patient's own stem cells. If the procedure is able to restore some sight, it could completely change age-related blindness, and even provide proof of concept for repairing injury.
Check out the summary below by BBC news:
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