Scientists Start Stem Cell Trials On A Possible Cure For Blindness

If successful, it'd be a medical breakthrough.

Stem cell research is a highly controversial field of medical study, given that these master cells are harvested from human embryos. Still, their potential for regenerative cures to a wide variety of ailments and diseases is undeniable, prompting intense regulations surrounding their use and debates between pro-life advocates and those in the scientific community. One more recent advancement in the field is the stem cell trails for a potential blindness cure which, if successful, could be a revolutionary breakthrough.

Specialists at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital treated a patient with the new treatment, co-developed by Pfizer and created from embryonic stem cells designed for patients with a particular condition that can cause blindness. The operation was called "successful" with "no complications to date" and is the first of ten such procedures planned for participants in the treatment for a disease called "wet" age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Macular degeneration accounts for almost half of all cases of blindness or loss of vision in the developed world. "Wet" AMD is less common than "dry" and is usually caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into a region in center of the retina. This trial requires surgeons to insert a specially engineered patch behind the retina to push treatment cells to replace diseased cells at the back of the eye.

Chris Mason, a professor of regenerative medicine at University College London's (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology, said the trial is important both as a potential cure for a major cause of blindness and also as a way to better understand the effects of using embryonic stem cells in treatments.

"If the AMD trials are successful, then by using embryonic stem cells as the starting material, the therapy can then be affordably manufactured at large scale," he said.

Cover image:  Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock


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