A 60-year-old woman has become the first patient in the UK to receive stem cell therapy for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The procedure marks a significant milestone in the development of cell-based treatments for age-related eye disease.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, is the first of 10 patients with wet AMD who will receive the stem cell treatment as part of an 18-month clinical trial at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. The patient is reported to have had no complications and the impact on her vision will be assessed before the end of the year.
The procedure was carried out last month by Moorfields retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz, who is co-leading them London Project to Cure Blindness with Professor Pete Coffey. Professor Da Cruz and his team transplanted a patch of retinal tissue grown from stem cells to replace dead and dying photoreceptors in the patient’s eye.
Commenting on the aspirations for the treatment, Professor Da Cruz said: “There is real potential that people with wet AMD will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells.”
The London Project to Cure Blindness has for the past 10 years been developing cell-based treatments to cure blindness associated with AMD. The group has been culturing embryonic stem cells, which give rise to all human cell types, to grow patches of retinal cells for transplant.
Professor Coffey, of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said: “We are tremendously pleased to have reached this stage in the research for a new therapeutic approach. Although we recognise this clinical trial focuses on a small group of AMD patients who have experienced sudden severe visual loss, we hope that many patients may benefit in the future.”