A revolutionary new stem cell treatment is giving doctors hope of developing a cure for blindness within the next five years. The experimental therapy has reportedly given two patients, who were both losing their sight, the ability to read again.
Doctors in London say they have successfully treated two people who were suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that can destroy a person’s vision center in multiple ways. “In the months before the operation my sight was really poor and I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye,” 86-year-old Douglas Waters told the BBC. “I can now read the newspaper.”
Waters and a woman in her early 60’s were both part of the experimental treatment created by the London Project to Cure Blindness. According to their report, published in Nature Biotechnology, the procedure involved implanting a “patch” of stem cells over the damaged areas of each patient’s eyes. The stem cells worked to repair the leakage of blood vessels around the retina, which is known as the “wet” version of AMD.
The “dry” version of the sight-destroying condition is a slower deterioration of the retina itself, which Prof. Pete Coffey says may be treated by the same procedure but has not been tested yet. Both patients receiving the stem cell patch had “wet” AMD. “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,” the professor from University College London added.
Prof. Coffey added that his patients are having better results than excepted. Both patients are able to see about twice as much as the London researchers predicted. “The first patient has got six lines improvement, which is astounding, and the second has five lines and he seems to be getting better as the months go by,” Coffey said, via The Guardian.