A new medical technique developed by London-based doctors turns out to be a major step towards curing age-related macular degeneration.
The innovative technique, published in Nature Biotechnology, starts with embryonic stem cells, a type of cell able to become any other in the human body. The team of doctors managed to convert those cells into the cells that compose the retinal pigment epithelium and embedded them into a scaffold creating a living patch.
The patch is then placed underneath the rods and cones in the back of the eye of the patient with age-related macular degeneration during a two-hour long operation.
“In the months before the operation my sight was really poor and I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye,” explains Douglas Waters, 86, one of two patients given the pioneering operation at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. “It’s brilliant what the team have done and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back,” he said to the BBC.
So far, both operated patients have maintained improved vision in the treated eye for a year and went from not being able to read with their affected eye to reading 60 to 80 words per minute.
Prof Lyndon da Cruz, consultant retinal surgeon at Moorfields, told the BBC: “We’ve restored vision where there was none. It’s incredibly exciting. As you get older, parts of you stop working and for the first time we’ve been able to take a cell and make it into a specific part of the eye that’s failing and put it back in the eye and get vision back.”
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