British doctors have taken a big leap forward in developing a cure for blindness, after successfully treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common form of blindness. The experimental stem cell therapy was administered to two patients who were losing their sight, and after a year, they were able to read again.
The procedure involved doctors inserting a “patch of stem cells” — 40 microns thick, 6mm long and 4mm wide — into the back of the patient’s eye.
The procedure restored the patients’ central vision enough for them to see faces and read books.
Douglas Waters, one of two people who received the treatment, developed severe wet AMD in July 2015 and received the treatment three months later in his right eye.
“In the months before the operation my sight was really poor and I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye. I was struggling to see things clearly, even when up-close,” Douglas said.
“After the surgery, my eyesight improved to the point where I can now read the newspaper and help my wife out with the gardening.”
The results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
WHAT IS AMD?
Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula and damage its cells. The macula is the section of the retina that allows detailed, central vision. Wet AMD is more serious than dry AMD, a more common variant.