DR ROB GANDY I UK
As we get older we hope that all of our faculties and senses will remain in working order for as long as they can. We know that we will “slow down” but we trust that we will continue to be able to do at least the simple things that give us pleasure, such as reading, watching the television and watching the grandchildren get into mischief. Which is why one of the most worrying things that can affect people as they get older is failing eyesight.
The most common cause of sight loss in the UK is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can lead to a rapid loss of central (reading) vision. Therefore, it was good news to recently see that clinical research at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London has led to some AMD-suffering patients regaining their reading vision after receiving a new treatment derived from stem cells1. Apparently there are two types of AMD – “wet” and “dry” – and this research has focused on the “wet” type (although it is hoped to treat “dry” AMD in the future).
This is fantastic news and it is to be hoped that positive developments in ophthalmic care can ensue from this research in the next few years.
The over-riding aim is to bring stem cell therapy for retinal diseases, especially for AMD, to the clinic as rapidly as possible. Professor Lyndon da Cruz, a retinal Surgeon at the hospital, said “The fact is, once the nerves in the retina start to be damaged through disease, they don’t re-grow. So, people lose their central and high-quality vision. It would be powerful if we could put back what’s missing.”
The next stages of the research programme will include trying to establish a mechanism to replace more than just retinal pigment epithelium cells. This could give the potential to develop a cure for all forms of AMD and other blinding retinal conditions, which would dramatically improve the quality of life for patients and reducing the burden on the NHS and other health services around the world.
This is fantastic news and it is to be hoped that positive developments in ophthalmic care can ensue from this research in the next few years. It should be noted that the clinical research is funded by the London Project to Cure Blindness2; but if you live in the provinces please don’t let the name put you off – everyone will benefit from the research! It’s just that Moorfields is the “top” Eye Hospital in the country and is situated in London. So if you would like to give money to support this exceptional research, please log on to http://www.thelondonproject.org/?q=donate-now