Scientists Cure Most Common Cause Of Blindness

This is the first post in our new category – Disabilities In The News. In this regular feature we will present important and exciting news stories covering disabilities in the UK.

In the next five years, the most prevalent cause of blindness may have a common cure. Scientists believe this will be possible after performing a ground breaking medical procedure on two patients.

Doctors performed stem cell therapy on both patients and the procedure was a success. The patients suffered from a condition known as AMD which had advanced (due to macular degeneration which is age-related.) This condition tends to destroy the central vision. The surgeon that operated on them said that the two patients were on the verge of losing their sight and that they could neither see a book nor any printed letters. Thanks to a stem cell “patch” that has been implanted behind their eyes, their central vision is now restored. Both patients currently have a clear vision, they can read and see faces clearly.

The scientist behind this marvellous achievement foresees this procedure becoming quite common in the near future. It will almost be like cataract surgery. Nearly 600,000-700,000 people in the United Kingdom lose their sight courtesy of AMD. These people now have hope thanks to this procedure.

This achievement was accomplished thanks to the tireless efforts of Pete Coffey, a university college London professor and Da Cruz, a Moorfields Eye Hospital retinal surgeon. Their aim was to treat at least ten people who suffered from the AMD condition that is in “wet” form. The cause of this condition is attributed to the eye’s blood vessels leaking which destroys the macula which is the retina’s integral part. Crucial macula cells known as retinal pigment epithelial are essential in the functioning of photoreceptor cells which are light sensitive. Without the RPE (retinal pigment epithelial) cells support, the photoreceptor cells die.

The two patients that underwent the treatment were the first from the United Kingdom. They were chosen due to the advancement of their AMD condition. The patients were male and female and are in their 60’s and 80’s. Had they not undergone the procedure in due time, they would have lost their sight within a month and a half of their blood vessels leaking.

Going Forward

According to Coffey, an off-the-shelf treatment will be available for use by NHS surgeons within five years. Currently, it can only be used on around 10% of the patients that suffer from AMD’s wet form. Currently dry AMD, which develops slowly cannot be treated. Coffey, however, does not see a reason as to why the patch wouldn’t work for them. The team anticipates that eventually, the treatment will become as cheap and common as cataract surgery.


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