A leading ophthalmologist associated with the London Project to Cure Blindness has claimed that a newly introduced therapy can actually cure one of the most common and challenging conditions associated with vision impairment around the world.
Recent statistics have shown that Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of age-related vision loss in people today. The condition has been known to visually impair millions and remains by all accounts entirely unpreventable, and to a considerable extent incurable. According to The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), AMD or Age-related Macular Degeneration is an eye disorder fundamentally linked with aging and leading to partial or total loss of vision as it progresses. Nearly 1.6 million Americans aged 50 years and above are believed to be associated with this debilitating condition.
Professor Pete Coffey of University College London has introduced a revolutionary form of therapy that could not only halt the rampant onset of the deadly impairment but in fact reverse the course of its transition and restore vision for seriously impaired victims. He appears to draw inspiration from a research project based in Sweden that pioneered cell transplant therapies for treating Parkinson’s disease.
AMD causes vision loss owing to abnormal blood vessels that develop under the macula and cause it to inflate and impair central vision. The macula is the central part of the retina, a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye and is commonly referred to as the vision center. Once compromised, victims lose the capacity to interpret images and recognize otherwise familiar objects. Central vision is needed to identify objects clearly and for routine everyday tasks, namely reading and driving.
The London Project to Cure Blindness, which initiated the first successful operation of this kind, posted an update on its website about this ground-breaking trial based on a new procedure derived from stem cells for the treatment of the condition.
‘This first operation is a major milestone in the London Project to Cure Blindness, which was established eight years ago with the aim of curing vision loss in patients with wet AMD, and is the result of a partnership between the hospital, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)’.
According to the National Institute for Health Research (NIH), AMD or Age-related Macular Degeneration is associated with several genetic and environmental risk factors that may include genes, aging, smoking, and family history, among others. However, aging and cigarette smoking are known to be among the most commonly associated risk factors that enhance an individual’s susceptibility to the disease.
There are typically two stages of progression associated with AMD. The initial stage is likely to involve a single eye, invariably progressing into a secondary manifestation of the ailment where complete visual impairment is the end result. Historically, the most commonly administered treatments include the use of vitamins and pain killers.
However, Coffey is still mindful of some of the key challenges that experts associated with this type of cell therapy may be confronted with.
“You don’t want cells to proliferate. This is often defined as a tumour. You also don’t want cells wandering off elsewhere in the body your heart or lungs.”
However, there is a great deal of conviction and collective optimism in his and his team’s assessment of the prospects of eye-related stem cell therapy in the Unites States and in other countries around the world. He, along with his fellow scientists, is convinced that the human eye is poised to remain at the very forefront of stem research in the coming years.
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