Sunday, March 13, 2016

New Eye Therapy Could Cure Blindness in Up to 30 Million People Worldwide!

blindness therapy

'Miracle' cells could cure blindness'

It's the most common cause of blindness in the Western world and there is no cure.

At least not yet.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) affects around 15 million people in the U.S. alone, and globally up to 30 million. For most victims, vitamins and pain relief are the best treatment available.

But Professor Pete Coffey of University College London is pioneering a new therapy that could stop the disease in its tracks, and restore vision to the blind, through the London Project to Cure Blindness.

AMD kills the eye's Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE), a layer of cells that support and nourish the eye's vision center, the macula, which then also gradually dies. Victims experience a black spot in their vision that grows outward, while they lose the ability to read and recognize familiar faces.

Coffey has spent the past eight years creating and refining his treatment to restore vision and on August 11, 2015, the first patient received it.

The landmark operation

The patient was a 60-year-old woman suffering with a severe form of AMD. Blood vessels at the back of her eyes had burst, flooding the retina and rapidly destroying her vision.

Surgeons at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London implanted a thin layer of cells behind the retina of each eye on a polyester patch just three millimeters wide. They used stem cells due to their ability to become many other cell types in the body. In this case, they had been cultivated as RPE cells to replace the patient's diminished stock.

"Recovery is possible ... there is a window when you can put the cells in and recover the patient's vision," says Coffey. He hopes for patients to get their lives back. "I would hope they can recognize their families again," he says.

But six months on from the landmark operation, the award-winning ophthalmologist is hesitant to declare victory.

"We are assessing her vision -- we need more information to make conclusions," says Coffey. "I'm pleasantly surprised the cells are surviving to this stage given how nasty (bloody) the environment was."

Nine more patients will go under the knife during this trial. If it proves successful, Coffey hopes the procedure can become as routine as cataract surgery -- ending the suffering of millions.

"My deeply cherished ambition is to make this therapy readily available for anyone suffering with AMD," he says.

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