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Stem Cell Therapy Could Provide Cure for AMD in Five Years

Scientists in the UK are teaming up for a groundbreaking surgical therapy that could cure Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

The therapy, which uses cells derived from human embryonic stem cells to replace the faulty retinal cells that cause AMD, will be developed by the London Project to Cure AMD, a collaborative project.

Trials based on this therapy, which could start in the next five years, will be a collaborative effort by researchers and clinicians at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Moorfields Eye Hospital, and the University of Sheffield.

AMD is associated with defects of the retinal support cells the retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE). The rods and cones (the photoreceptors) in the retina, which are the light sensitive cells, depend for their survival on the normal functioning of these cells, and so failure of these cells leads to progressive loss of vision.

In addition, the disease often provokes a scarring process at the back of the eye leading to the formation of new blood vessels within the retina which subsequently leak fluid resulting in exudative or so called wet AMD.

Though there has been some success in controlling new blood vessel formation in wet AMD, currently there is no treatment that prevents the treatment of dry AMD.

Even in wet AMD, the treatment is only suitable for certain patients and is often only temporary.

The London Projects approach will involve production of a cell replacement therapy from human embryonic stem cells, which are effective in replacing dysfunctional RPE and photoreceptors found in AMD, leading to a surgical therapy capable of stabilising and restoring vision in the vast majority of patients.

Surgical procedures already developed and trialled in a number of patients using the patients own cells have illustrated that a cell replacement therapy can work.

Professor Pete Coffey, UC
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