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‘Ground-breaking’ UK trial could lead to off-the-shelf stem cell treatment for wet AMD within five years

An 86-year-old Croydon man is able to read the newspaper and help his wife with the gardening again after he received a pioneering therapy

20 Mar 2018 by Selina Powell

A man in his 80s and a woman in her 60s have regained the ability to read following a ‘ground-breaking’ wet AMD treatment derived from stem cells.

The therapy was successfully administered to two UK patients through the London Project to Cure Blindness, which involves a partnership between Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London.

A press release from Moorfields confirmed that the trial results are the first description of a complete engineered tissue used for this purpose.

The research, which was published in Nature Biotech,  involved implanting a patch of retinal pigment epithelium cells derived from stem cells in two patients with wet AMD.

The two patients, who were monitored for 12 months following the treatment, went from not being able to read at all with glasses to reading 60-80 words per minute with normal reading spectacles.

Study participant, Douglas Waters, 86, developed severe wet AMD in July 2015 and received the treatment three months later in his right eye.

He said his sight was “really poor” in the months before the operation.

“I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye. I was struggling to see things clearly, even when up-close. After the surgery my eyesight improved to the point where I can now read the newspaper and help my wife out with the gardening. It’s brilliant what the team have done and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back,” Mr Waters emphasised.

Moorfields Eye Hospital consultant retinal surgeon, Professor Lyndon da Cruz, highlighted that the results suggest the new therapeutic approach is safe and provides good visual outcomes.

“The patients who received the treatment had very severe AMD, and their improved vision will go some way towards enhancing their quality of life. We recognise that this is a small group of patients, but we hope that what we have learned from this study will benefit many more in the future,” he shared.

It is hoped that the treatment approach will also help treat patients with dry AMD in the future.

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology Professor Pete Coffey said the study opens the door to new treatment options for people living with AMD.

“We hope this will lead to an affordable ‘off-the-shelf’ therapy that could be made available to NHS patients within the next five years,” he highlighted.

Farah Gatrad, clinical and regulatory officer at the AOP, said: “The results of this new therapeutic approach are promising. Sadly age-related macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of sight loss in the UK, and the deterioration of vision can often have life limiting consequences. Although we recognise that this development is in the trial stages, it is an exciting breakthrough that highlights the advances in regenerative medicine that are paving the way for more accessible future treatments.” 

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