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Stem cells used to treat sight loss
October 19, 2015, 1:28 pm

A patient in the United Kingdom has become the first to receive pioneering new stem cell treatment to save her eyesight.

The woman, who suffered from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), had an hour-long operation known as ‘retinol pigment epithelium’ during which eye cells derived from stem cells were used to replace the diseased AMD cells behind her retina to form a patch over the problem area.

Most patients suffering from AMD find that their central vision is affected, whereas their peripheral vision remains normal. The ocular disorder can exist in two forms — wet or dry; wet-AMD is caused by abnormal blood vessels leaking in the center of the retina, whereas dry-AMD, which is more common, is the result of retinal cells that become too thin.

Macular degeneration is responsible for more than 50 percent of all cases of visual impairment in the developed world. It usually affects those over the age of 50, with 25 percent of over 60s in the UK currently suffering from some kind of degeneration.

According to the team behind the operation, though the patient has not experienced any complications so far, they could not confirm a true success until her recovery is further examined in December. The doctors involved say the unique treatment using stem cell transplant could in the future have the potential to help people with wet-AMD

The operation is part of a wider trial that looks at the safety and success rates of retinol pigment epithelium in those suffering from wet AMD. Data from the trials suggest the treatment could also have the potential to treat dry-AMD.

Ten more patients are set to receive the treatment over the next 18 months. If their operations prove to be a success the ground-breaking stem cell treatment could be used more widely on AMD patients.

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