A new stem cell transplant might help preserve or even restore vision being lost to the dry form of age-related macular degeneration, a new pilot clinical trial has shown.
In the experimental therapy, a specially engineered sheet of stem cells is transplanted into the back wall of the eye to replace a layer of cells destroyed by age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Vision loss appeared to halt in four of the first five people treated with the implant cells.
The fifth patient actually experienced some improvement in vision, and was able to read 17 additional letters off a standard eye chart, said lead researcher Dr. Amir Kashani. He is assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.
“The function of the RPE cells is to support the overlying retina and its photo sensor cells,” Kashani said. Without the nourishment provided by the RPE layer, the retina cannot function normally and begins to die off, permanently damaging vision.
To halt the advance of vision loss, Kashani and his team engineered in the lab a fresh sheet of RPE cells created from embryonic stem cells.
The researchers then implanted the new sheet of cells into the eyes of five patients with long-term dry AMD, in a stage I clinical trial that ultimately will include a total of 20 people.
ORIGINAL SOURCE webmd.com