Stem cell therapy and vision loss

Almost 2 million people are living with vision loss in the UK[1]
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common form of vision loss[1]
More than 600,000 people in the UK are affected by AMD[1]
Every day 250 people in the UK begin to lose their vision[1]
79% of people aged 64+ are affected by vision loss[1]

people live
with vision loss in the UK

What is vision loss?

There are varying degrees of vision loss, involving both eyes, one eye or only certain parts of the visual field. Common warning signs include blurry vision, seeing ghost images and spots, and tunnel vision.

Loss of vision is the result of damage to optic nerves and how information is received by the brain.[2] It is often diagnosed as a symptom of related conditions, such as age-related muscular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts. However, there are dozens of conditions and diseases – some very common and some much more rare – that cause loss of eyesight. Currently nearly two million people are living with vision loss in the UK alone.

Stem cell therapy research

A breakthrough piece of research reported in March 2018 by the BBC[3] identified the opportunity for stem cells to be used to treat eye-related conditions. After receiving ground-breaking stem cell therapy as part of the study, two patients with the most prevalent type of sight loss, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), recovered their reading sight.

This new research finding now provides hope to thousands, and specialists were united in supporting further study and the achievement of breakthroughs.

During a 2018 study[4] into treating AMD with stem cells, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 60s received a unique “patch” of stem cells to repair the harm to their eyes. With ordinary reading glasses, both went from not being able to read at all to reading 60-80 phrases per minute.

The stem cell therapy took place at Moorfields Eye Hospital assisted by University College London, and involved growing stem cells into a perfect copy of the damaged retina. This was inserted behind the eye to replace the patients’ tissue damaged by AMD.

But this may only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of vision-related stem cell therapy.

George Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences, said:
“This treatment is a sign of the UK’s world-class life science sector and the potential of the NHS to be a partner in research and innovation.”[5]

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