UK doctors used stem cells to restore the sight of two people
British doctors have made a major step in the cure of a common age-related chronic condition that affects the eyes.
In a small clinical trial, two elderly macular-degeneration patients at Moorfields Eye Hospital received a cutting edge stem cell therapy. The treatment was designed to help people who have experienced sudden and severe vision loss due to \”wet\” macula degeneration. This is a condition in which abnormal blood vessel growth occurs under the retina or macula of the eye. The \”wet\” form of macular is less common but more severe than the \”dry\” type. It occurs when \”dry\” degeneration advances. It is rare for it to cause total blindness but can lead to blurriness or blind spots which make it difficult to see clearly. The stem cells were taken from an embryonic human and inserted in the back of the eyes to replace the diseased cells.
The ability of embryonic stem cells to transform into any cell type within the body makes them special. In this instance, the cells were coaxed to become the type of cell that is the retinal pigmented epithelium. The cells were embedded in a scaffold, which was a patch of living cells that was only one layer thick. This patch was surgically implanted under the rods, cones and the retinal tissue at the back of the eyes.