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Stem cells used for eye disease

6th June 2007

Stem cell technology could soon be used to restore vision in people who suffer from a condition that is a major cause of blindness.


UK scientists have already repaired the vision of some patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) using cells from the patients’ own eyes.

But now the team of experts want carry out the same operation using retinal cells grown from stem cells in a laboratory, with the first patients being treated within five years.

They have been backed by a £4m donation from an anonymous US benefactor. That has allowed the establishment of the London Project to Cure AMD with the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology working with researchers from the University of Sheffield.

Surgeons at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London have carried out an operation in some patients to take cells from the healthy periphery of the eye in patients with wet-AMD and transplant them into the affected area.

While the operations have been successful there are associated complications. In order to make the procedure more widely available, the Sheffield team has grown retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells from embryonic stem cell lines. The hope is that this can be injected into the patient’s eye during a 45-minute operation.

Project director Professor Pete Coffey said the focus was now to ensure the cells were safe enough to be used in humans.

There are two types of AMD: dry makes up 90% of cases with the remainder being wet-AMD. It affects around 25% of over-60s in the UK and causes blindness in 14 million people across Europe.


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Article Information

Title: Stem cells used for eye disease
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 3054
Date Added: 6th Jun 2007


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