Stem Cell Transplants Show Some Success in Restoring Vision

Could an out-patient surgical procedure for cure of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with stem cells transfer become commonplace in the next decade?

During a recent visit to discuss the possibility of conducting human trials of retinal stem cell transplants in India, Professor Pete Coffey, from University College London (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology, London, United Kingdom; reportedly told the Times of India:

"... some cases, the transplants were so successful that the patients were able to read, cycle and use a computer. By 2011, we will make it a 45-minute out patient operation."

Professor Pete Coffey and his colleagues at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology in London, UK, have previously written:

  • "Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) transplantation aims to restore the subretinal anatomy and re-establish the critical interaction between the RPE and the photoreceptor, which is fundamental to sight."1
  • "Diseases that have been treated with RPE transplantation demonstrating partial reversal of vision loss include primary RPE dystrophies ... photoreceptor dystrophies as well as complex retinal diseases such as atrophic and neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • "Unfortunately, in the human trials the visual recovery has been limited at best and full visual recovery has not been demonstrated."
  • "Autologous full-thickness transplants have been used most commonly and effectively in human disease but the search for a cell source to replace autologous RPE such as embryonic stem cells, marrow-derived stem cells, umbilical cord-derived cells as well as immortalised cell lines continues."

Reference: da Cruz L, Chen FK, Ahmado A, Greenwood J, Coffey P. : RPE transplantation and its role in retinal disease. Prog Retin Eye Res. 2007 Nov;26(6):598-635.