Age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD claims 30 million victims worldwide each year and currently there is no treatment other than pain relief medication and vitamins. AMD affects the Retinal Pigment Epithelium or RPE cells gradually killing them. The RPE cells nourish the macula of eye which also degenerates rapidly. AMD sufferers start noticing a black spot at the center of their vision which gradually grows and finally blinds them. But thanks to a new therapy engineered by scientist Pete Coffey of University College of London, AMD victims may get their vision back and get completely cured of blindness as a result.
Like many other degenerative diseases, the cure for AMD involves the use of stem cells due to their ability to convert into any other cell of the body. Professor Coffey first applied his therapy on a 60 year old woman suffering from advanced AMD. The disease had burst blood vessels at the back of her eyes and her retina was flooded with blood. The operation took place at the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London where surgeons under the guidance of professor Coffey implanted a thin layer of stem cells in each eye behind the retina using a 3 mm think polyester patch.
Six months after the operation, the stem cells, now masquerading as RPE cells, were still alive giving professor Coffey a world of hope. “We are assessing her vision — we need more information to make conclusions. I’m pleasantly surprised the cells are surviving to this stage given how nasty (bloody) the environment was.” 9 more patients are scheduled to undergo the procedure soon and the success of the therapy could be a boon to millions around the world. “My deeply cherished ambition is to make this therapy readily available for anyone suffering with AMD,” says professor Coffey