British scientists say they are on the verge of curing blindness after a groundbreaking new treatment where one million stem cells are injected into the back of the patient's eyeballs
- British company reported early success with procedure that repairs damaged retina
- Treatment involves growing billions of stem cells from stem cells in a laboratory
- Have the ability to transform itself into other cell types
- There is no cure for retinitis pigmentosa, which narrows the vision slowly
Victims of a devastating form of blindness have received hope through a new stem cell treatment that rejuvenates the eyes.
There is no cure for retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary condition that slowly narrows vision, but a British company has reported early success with a revolutionary procedure that helps repair a damaged retina.
The treatment involves growing billions of stem cells from stem cells in a laboratory. These have the ability to transform themselves into other types of cells, depending on where they are placed in the body.
A million stem cells are injected into the back of the patient's eyeball. Once there, they transform themselves into new light-sensitive cells, called rods and cones, which replace the prematurely lost with genetic defects.
Tests on three patients – two men and one woman – who were legally blind, yielded & # 39; exciting & # 39; results, according to Olav Hellebo, CEO of the British biotech company ReNeuron.
Before the procedure, the three could only read the largest group of letters on a special eye test chart, but 18 days after they were injected with the cells, their vision was improved to read three letter sizes smaller.
One patient made enough progress to no longer be classified as legally blind and another told her doctor that she could see the food on her plate for the first time in years.
Mr. Hellebo told The Mail on Sunday: & # 39; We are naturally very enthusiastic. We have to make reservations – that this only affects three patients and it is an early day – but the eye doctor's response was very encouraging. & # 39;
The three patients are all American, but technology development has been led by ReNeuron experts in Bridgend, Wales. Nine patients are more registered to test the procedure.
Mr. Hellebo said that the woman who was before the procedure & # 39; skeptical & # 39; had been able to see no more than nine letters on the eye test chart until 29. People are considered legally blind if they have fewer than 36 letters on the 100-letter card. & # 39; She said she could now see the food on her plate, which is really motivating for us to hear, & # 39; he added.
A million stem cells are injected into the back of the patient's eyeball. Once there, they transform themselves into new light-sensitive cells (file image)
The two men improved from nine to 24 letters and from 31 to 45.
RP, which affects up to 25,000 people in Great Britain, is caused by around 100 hereditary genetic defects, sometimes alone and sometimes in combination.
Loss of vision can begin in childhood, adolescence or adulthood and starts with a deteriorated night vision and peripheral vision that gradually narrows, leaving only a blurred tunnel vision. Total blindness usually follows.
Mr. Hellebo, whose company will provide more information about the trial at the annual retinal cell and gene therapy innovation summit in Vancouver, Canada, said this month: & # 39; It is a terrible diagnosis because you know where it is going and there nothing is what you can do about it. & # 39;
Tina Houlihan, from the charity Retina UK who supports people with inherited vision loss, said: “These early results are encouraging and offer hope to those living with retinitis pigmentosa. Although the research is at this very early stage, with only a very small number of patients, we are careful with our optimism. & # 39;