A British medical team has developed an operation that some say may be a cure for age-related blindness, it was revealed Tuesday.
Sky News reported that a team of doctors at London's Moorfields Hospital transplanted embryonic stem cells that had been developed into retinal pigment epithelium cells into the eye of a 60-year-old woman suffering from so-called "wet" age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD occurs when the retinal pigment epithelium cells, which are located at the back of the eye, suffer damage. The procedure allows the newly created cells to replace the diseased area.
Sky reported that the surgery took place last month and no complications have been reported, though it will still take several months before doctors can establish how well the woman can see.
However, experts say that if the surgery proves a success, it creates the possibility that wet AMD can be treated with surgery similar to that performed to remove cataracts. There is no treatment for the so-called "dry" form of AMD, which is the more common type of the disease. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over 50.
"The reason we are very excited is that we have been able to create these very specific cells and we have been able to transfer them to the patient," Professor Lyndon da Cruz of Moorfields told Sky. "This has the potential to be a treatment rather than being theoretical proof."
The woman is one of ten patients with macular degeneration that are being treated with the surgery as part of a trial. Experts told the Daily Telegraph that larger trials would be needed before the surgery can become a mainstream treatment.
The Telegraph reported that the cells used in the procedure were taken from donated embryos that were created during IVF treatment, but never used.