Stem-Cell Treatment for Blindness Moving Through Patient Testing

Stem Cell Treatment for Blindness shows a woman getting an eye exam

Why It Matters: Millions of people worldwide are affected by vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and currently, there is no cure. This new stem cell treatment aims to change that by potentially preserving or even restoring vision.

What Is the Treatment? Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) is developing a treatment that uses embryonic stem cells to create retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. These cells are crucial for supporting the retina's photoreceptors, which are essential for vision.

How Does It Work? During the procedure, a tiny amount of RPE cells is injected under the patient’s retina. These cells help protect and potentially rejuvenate the photoreceptors, which are responsible for detecting light and transmitting visual information to the brain.

The Current Status:

  • Early Success: One legally blind patient regained vision after receiving the treatment, highlighting its potential.
  • Ongoing Trials: ACT is conducting more extensive trials involving patients with AMD and Stargardt’s disease, a genetic condition causing vision loss in children. The results of these trials will determine the treatment’s effectiveness and safety.

The Significance: This treatment could be revolutionary as the first therapy derived from embryonic stem cells. It offers hope to millions, especially as projections indicate nearly 200 million people will be affected by AMD by 2020.

The Discovery: The treatment is based on a serendipitous discovery by Irina Klimanskaya, a scientist at ACT, who found that embryonic stem cells could naturally develop into RPE cells. This breakthrough has laid the foundation for a potentially life-changing treatment for blindness.

The Future: If successful, this stem cell therapy could preserve and restore vision for countless individuals suffering from age-related and inherited vision loss, providing a much-needed solution where none currently exists.

Read more about this study here.