Medics at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London have successfully repaired vision in two patients suffering from age-related macular generation (AMD) using stem cells, raising hopes that similar sight-restoring treatments will be available “off-the-shelf” within five years. The results have been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
First of all, a little bit of background on AMD. There are two types: wet and dry. Both of the patients here had “wet” AMD, which is caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood onto the macula. The macula is an important part of the eye’s retina made up of light-sensing rod and cone cells and a nourishing layer of cells called the retinal pigment epithelium. In contrast, “dry” macular degeneration is less serious, more common, and occurs when deposits build up beneath the macula and cause it to deteriorate.
The disease is the number one cause of blindness in the UK, affecting more than 600,000 Brits. In the US, an estimated 11 million people live with some kind of AMD – a number that is predicted to double by 2050, largely thanks to an aging population.