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Eyesight restored for Blind after Stem Cell treatment success


Age-related macular degeneration is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK – but following recent Stem Cell Therapy, developments in treatment could be closer than we think.

A trail conducted at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital say patients have their sight restored in which cells were used to regrow part of the eye responsible for detail vision.

86-year-old Douglas Waters from London, was amongst two patients who were able to read again following the procedure.

Both patients suffered from a severe visual impairment because of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), yet reported their sight was greatly improved one year later.

Despite the small number of patients in this trial, the results are a promising sign that the treatment is not only safe, yet effective and could be utilised in other blindness causing conditions.

Professor Pete Coffey of University College London said: “This study represents real progress in regenerative medicine and opens the door on new treatment options for people with age-related macular degeneration,”

“We hope this will lead to an affordable ‘off-the-shelf’ therapy that could be made available to NHS patients within the next five years.”

 Douglas Waters, one of the patients who had the operation,

Douglas Waters, one of the patients who had the operation. Credit: The Guardian

Around 600,000 people in the UK suffer from AMD which is the most common cause of blindness in developed countries according to the Foundation Fighting Blindness .

Specifically, the AMD see the central vision deteriorate, resulting in it being impossible to focus on small detail and leads to not being able to read in addition to recognising faces.

For all the outer ‘peripheral vision ‘is not affected, patients do not see complete loss of sight yet leads to independent living being extremely difficult.

“I was struggling to see things clearly, even when up-close,” said Douglas Waters.  “After the surgery my eyesight improved to the point where I can now read the newspaper and help my wife out with the gardening.

“It’s brilliant what the team have done, and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back.”

All the patients in the trial suffered from a severe form of AMD, which saw the sight loss happen very quickly as soon as a few days or weeks. Mr Waters was diagnosed in July 2015 and underwent treatment just three months later.

New muscular cells were grown in this trial specifically with the use of embryonic stem cells. These were attached to plastic scaffold that formed a ‘patch’ which recreated the structure of the eye. The patch was inserted into the eye replacing the muscular cells affected by the disease. This trial marked a world first with an engineered piece of tissue being used to restore vision of AMD sufferers

The result found patients that once could not read, reading between 60 and 80 words a minute with the use of reading glasses.

The trial was conducted as a partnership between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), The findings were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

You can find more information on stem cell treatments on our website.