An Eye for an Eye, but a tooth for vision?
The BBC today issued an in depth report of London surgeons who have carried out a pioneering stem cell operation in an ongoing trial to find a cure for blindness.
The operation involved seeding a tiny patch with specialised stem cells and implanting it at the back of the retina. The operation was carried out on a 60 year old woman at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, who had age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and the operation will be carried out on a further ten people with the same degenerative condition. As part of the trial the patients will be monitored to check improvement to their vision and the safety of the procedure.
Patients with AMD lose their central vision, which becomes blurred and distorted.
The cells used during the operation were originally derived from an early embryo, which for many carry religious and moral objections. Stem cells in teeth are harvested from naturally shed baby teeth and therefore do not carry any objections.
Prof Lyndon Da Cruz who carried out the operation, said ‘This is truly a regenerative project. In the past it has been impossible to replace lost neural cells. If we can deliver the very layer of cells that are missing and give them their function back this would be of enormous benefit to people with the sight-threatening condition’.
Scientists say that this could also help patients in the early stages of AMD and could potentially stop any loss of vision.
AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in developed countries, and it is estimated that 1 in 10 people aged over 65 have some degree of this disease.
Stem cells have been used before to treat blindness. In 2012 patients with Stargardt’s disease which is a condition where vision deteriorates over time, were treated with stem cells in a safety trial carried out in both the UK and US.
To read more about how stem cells could be used to treat diseases of the eye, visit our treatments page.