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UK stem-cell trial for wet AMD goes ahead

5 October 2015
Appeared in BioNews 822

A potential treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been carried out for the first time.

Doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London used embryonic stem cells to grow a patch of retinal pigment cells, which was then implanted behind the retina of a 60-year-old woman with wet AMD. They will know by December whether the treatment has been successful.

This operation is the first in a trial of ten patients, who will be recruited over a period of 18 months. Each patient will be monitored for a year to assess the safety and stability of the cells and whether there is an effect in restoring vision.

'There is real potential that people with wet AMD will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells,' said Professor Lyndon Da Cruz, who is performing the surgery. Professor Da Cruz also co-leads the London Project to Cure Blindness, a collaborative project between the Moorfields, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, the National Institute for Health Research and Pfizer.

AMD affects around 25 percent of over 60s in the UK – around 700,000 people altogether – but this figure is predicted to increase. Although the treatment is only being tested on the less common 'wet' form of the disease, Professor Da Cruz thinks it could also help people with early stages of dry AMD, if it is deemed successful.

Professor Pete Coffey, co-leader of the London Project, told the Daily Mail: 'If the procedure gains accelerated approval then the patch could be available on the NHS within two and a half years.'

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