Pioneering surgeons in London have carried out a complex stem cell procedure in a bid to find a cure for blindness.
Surgeons working at Moorfields Eye Hospital carried out human embryonic stem cell treatment on a 60 year old woman last month as part of the London Project to Cure Blindness. During the procedure, the surgeons planted specific types of eye cell at the back of the retina. They are hoping that the results may pave the way for effective treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Professor Peter Coffey, from UCL’s Institute of Ophthalmology, explained that it will not be possible to determine whether the procedure was successful immediately, but the team hopes to have more information by Christmas. The cells, which have been implanted at the back of the retina, form the RPE (retinal pigment epithelium). These cells die as a result of AMD and this causes loss of vision. It is hoped that by implanting stem cells, people who suffer from the wet form of AMD will be able to see again.
As part of the project, which has been running for over 10 years, 10 people will undergo the procedure. All those involved suffer from the wet form of AMD. The participants will be monitored closely for a year to check the safety of the procedure and chart any changes in their vision.
Professor Lyndon Da Cruz, one of the surgeons involved in the procedure, described the programme as a “truly regenerative project” that represents the first time neural cells have been replaced in a human. It is hoped that replacing the RPE layer will enable people to see again and make a massive difference to the quality of life of thousands of people who suffer from AMD in the UK.