The world’s first clinical trials using embryonic stem cells to treat blindness suggest the technique is safe…
The world’s first human trial using stem cells to treat blindness, suggests that the procedure is safe.
US-based Advanced Cell Technology together with the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, have announced their first results, which showed the embryonic stems can be successful attached to deteriorated retina, without showing signs of rejection.
Trials using the same technique have now begun at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital.
The trials involved two patients; one elderly woman in her 70s with dry age-related macular degeneration, and another female patient in her 50s with Stargardt’s disease. Both had very poor vision and were registered blind.Image Credit: Id711. 2007.
The team injected a mixture, containing 50,000 retinal cells, into the eyes of the patients. The cells then attached to the retinal membrane and grow to replicate the function of other healthy cells surrounding it.
Four months after surgery, both patients were doing well, the team reported.
While the study was conducted to test if the procedure is safe, and not to test if it actually works, the patients did report improved vision following the operation.
If proved safe, the treatment should be able to treat patients with currently incurable blindness, however since using embryonic stem cells is a highly controversial topic, the technique will face great opposition, even if it’s deemed effective.
The team also notes that much more research needs to be conducted, and that it will be years before the treatment can be proven. Nevertheless, the results are certainly a step in the right direction for those who advocate stem cell therapy.