British Study: Stem Cell Transplants Restore 2 Patients' Vision

By Paul Ebeling: An experimental stem cell therapy restored partial vision to two patients with a common cause of blindness, British doctors reported this week.

Embyronic stem cells were converted into patches of eye cells and grown in the lab. The patches were then inserted into the back of one eye in each of the patients, both of whom suffer from age-related macular degeneration, according a report.
The transplants, on a woman in her 60’s and an 86-year-old man, were performed at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. A year later, both patients report improved vision in the treated eye.

Another 8 more patients are scheduled to take part in the clinical trial of the procedure, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

“We’ve restored vision where there was none,” Dr. Lyndon da Cruz, consultant retinal surgeon at Moorfields, told reporters.

“It’s incredibly exciting. As you get older, parts of you stop working and for the 1st time we have been able to take a cell and make it into a specific part of the eye that is failing and put it back in the eye and get vision back.”

Dr. da Cruz stopped short of calling the procedure a cure because it does not completely restore normal vision.

“What’s exciting about this study is that the patients recorded an increase in vision,” according to Carmel Toomes, Leeds Institutes of Molecular Medicine.

“To see an improvement is a good sign that this therapy may help patients in the future, although further studies are needed before real conclusions can be drawn,” Ms. Toomes told reporters.

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