Macular degeneration: Age-related blindness can be cured by stem cells in the future

Macular degeneration: Age-related blindness can be cured by stem cells in the future


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UK clinic breakthrough wet AMD
A British team of doctors has managed to perform an operation that may cure age-related blindness. On Monday September 28th, the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London launched a new type of treatment to combat “wet” age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The doctors operated on a patient with the help of stem cells. This first operation is an important milestone in curing age-related blindness, the researchers said.

The London project was launched ten years ago with the aim of curing patients with wet AMD and preventing vision loss. The study is the result of a collaboration between the hospital, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). In addition, Pfizer Inc. joined the partnership in 2009. A reliable therapy should be developed from the original idea.

Studies conducted for this purpose examined the safety and effectiveness of the transplantation of eye cells (retinal pigment epithelium) derived from human stem cells. The cells replace cells affected by AMD in the eye. An operation required for this takes up to two hours. The first successful operation was performed last month. To date, the patient has experienced no complications. The person concerned wishes to remain anonymous. The team hopes to see first results in eyesight restoration in December 2015.

Study with ten subjects over a year
Retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz said that there is a good chance that people with wet, age-related macular degeneration can be cured by a cell transplant. The study is to be carried out on ten patients. Each of these patients is followed and observed for a period of one year. The security and stability of the cells should be assessed. The restoration of vision is also monitored. Professor Pete Coffey of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology was very pleased that research at this level had reached a therapeutic approach. Even if the study relates to a small group of AMD patients who suddenly suffered severe visual loss, it is to be hoped that many affected people will benefit from the development in the future.

Better, faster results through collaboration
The study showed the strengths of the collaboration between the university, Moorfields Eye Hospital, the NHS Foundation Trust and Pfizer, said Professor Philip J. Luthert, director of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. This has given rise to a new treatment approach for AMD. Dr. Phillips Berkeley, UK Medical Director at Pfizer Ltd., added that Pfizer believes that major scientific breakthroughs are only possible through collaboration. Nobody has the knowledge to answer all questions. But through cooperation it is possible to achieve better results faster. A few years ago, stem cell therapy was just a theory. Being part of a project today that has had the latest scientific breakthrough in vision restoration is more than satisfactory, Berkeley added.

Forms of macular degeneration
Almost 50 percent of visual impairments in the developed world are triggered by macular degeneration. Mostly people over the age of 50 are affected, which is why the disease is also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). According to the experts, around 25 percent of over 60s in the UK are affected. This number will increase further in the next few years. In people with AMD, the central vision (reading) is impaired. The surrounding field of view remains normal.

There are two types of AMD, wet and dry. Wet AMD is generally triggered by abnormal blood vessels. These allow fluid or blood to leak into the area of ​​the macula, the center of our retina. Dry AMD is the much more common form of macular degeneration. In the dry form, a defect or thinning of the layer of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) occurs in the macula. Such RPE cells support the light-sensitive visual cells, which in turn are so important for our vision. There is currently no treatment for dry AMD. (as)

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