By ASHLEY WELCH, CBS NEWS, September 29, 2015
The first patient has received a pioneering human embryonic stem cell operation in the U.K. that doctors hope will be effective against a common cause of blindness.
According to a statement released today, the procedure was performed on a 60-year-old woman with a condition called age-related macular degeneration at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital last month. The procedure was deemed successful and there have been no complications to date, the statement said.
The doctors expect to know by December whether or not the woman has regained her sight. The study will recruit a total of 10 patients for the ongoing trial over an 18-month period.
Age-related macular degeneration is a common eye condition and the leading cause of vision loss among people 50 and older, according to the National Eye Institute. There are two forms of the condition: “wet” and “dry.” The wet form is usually caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the region of the macula, in the center of the retina. Wet macular degeneration almost always begins as dry macular degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration is far more common and affects 90 percent of people with the condition. It occurs when there is a breakdown or thinning of the layer of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in the macula, which support the light-sensitive photoreceptor cells that are critical to vision.
The current trial, which is part of the London Project to Cure Blindness, will test the safety and efficacy of transplanting RPE cells derived from stem cells to treat people with sudden severe visual loss from wet age-related macular degeneration