British scientists aim to deliver the world’s first stem-cell treatment for blindness within five years, it was announced today.
A team of researchers and clinicians will develop the use of embryonic stem cells to repair damaged retinas.
Their target is a disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness among the elderly in the developed world.
Scientists from University College London, Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, and the University of Sheffield are spearheading the research.
AMD is associated with defects in ‘RPE’ cells which support the light-sensitive photoreceptors of the retina. Without these RPE cells, the rod and cone cells that respond to light cannot survive.
The new project aims to generate RPE cells from embryonic stem cells in the laboratory and transplant them into the eyes of patients.