Stem cells used to fight age-related blindness


A doctor in the United Kingdom has performed the world's first embryonic stem cell operation using a "patch" technique in the hope of finding a cure for blindness in some patients.

Surgeons at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital carried out the first operation on a female patient with wet age-related muscular degeneration (AMD), characterised by leaking blood vessels. It involves taking a single embryonic stem cell and growing it into a 6mm patch of 100,000 retinal pigment cells. There have been no complications to date. In AMD this vision becomes increasingly blurred, which means that reading becomes hard, colours appear less vibrant and people's face are hard to recognise.

Each has a form of the disease known as "wet AMD" which is more serious than "dry AMD".

The cells were taken from donated embryos that were created during IVF treatment but never used.

This trial involves surgeons inserting a specially engineered patch behind the retina to deliver the treatment cells to replace diseased cells at the back of the eye. A healthy layer is critical to normal sight.

AMD affects a specific area of cells that are either damaged or completely missing.

"The reason why we are so excited is that we have been able to grow anĀ ideal copy of the eye", Professor Lyndon Da Cruz, a surgeon at Moorfields told the Telegraph.

"It's the combination of being able to create the cells that are missing and demonstrate that we can safely transplant them".

Life sciences minister George Freeman said: 'This treatment is a sign of the UK's world-class life science sector and the potential of the NHS to be a partner in research and innovation'.

Clara Eaglen of the Royal National Institute of Blind People said: "We are hopeful that stem cell technology will significantly change the way in which people with sight loss are treated over the next decade".

Prof Da Cruz has started the trial with wet AMD patients because there is potential to restore their sight faster following sudden vision loss, with results within about three months.

The operation is a milestone in the London Project to Cure Blindness, a partnership between Moorfields, UCL and the National Institute for Health Research.

'We are tremendously pleased to have reached this stage in the research, ' he said. Professor Anthony Hollander, of Liverpool University, said: 'The United Kingdom should be very proud of its long-term investment in stem cell research and the benefits are starting to come through. The safety and efficacy of embryonic stem cells remains unknown and will only be understood through clinical trials such as this one.

England's capital city The first affected person is solved in Britain in a very very landmark trial of a fresh therapy co-created by Pfizer and to be had from human stem mitochondria intended for sufferers with the use of a problem which can cause blindness.

"Introducing stem cells into the eye has been around for some time, but it highly experimental", he said. Secondly, this study will enable a much better understanding of the use of embryonic stem cells to treat disease in general.

What is age-related macular degeneration?

The condition causes loss of central vision, usually in both eyes.