Could Stem Cells Cure Blindness Caused by Macular Degeneration?
News is buzzing today with reports that British doctors have begun a clinical trial of a new stem cell operation for people with age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. While preliminary results of the clinical trial are not yet available, the potential for this type of therapy is significant for many, as AMD is the leading cause of blindness in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
AMD is a disease in the eye’s retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. In the center of the retina is the macula, which is responsible for central, detailed vision, such as sewing or reading a book. When AMD occurs, diseased cells in the macula slowly begin to die for reasons that are unclear. The stem cell operation inserts a specially engineered patch of treatment cells behind the retina to replace the diseased cells. The doctors hope that the healthy cells will be able to sense light, restoring the central vision lost due to AMD.
The current trial involves 10 patients, all of whom have wet AMD, which caused them to suddenly lose their vision over the course of six weeks. The first patient in this trial had the surgery to implant the new cells last month, but researchers will have to wait until December to measure early results.
While it may take a little time to determine how effective this treatment is, researchers are already considering how the cells can be grown in large amounts to treat the millions of people who have AMD-related vision loss.
Read more about other stem cell therapy trials for AMD.