17th June 2011
A revolutionary corrective eye surgery which could cure blindness is to be tested on people for the first time.
Two women in the US are set to undergo the surgery, which will involve cells derived from embryonic stem cells being injected into their eyes in a bid to overcome the damage done to their sight by hereditary or age-related disease.
One of the women is in her 70s and is suffering from macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of blindness in the elderly. The other woman is in her 20s and afflicted with Stargart disease.
Scientists who have developed the technique at Massachusetts biotech firm Advanced Cell Technology are hoping that the technique, which could see vision improving within months, will replicate the amazing results seen in tests on animals.
Leading stem cell researcher Robert Lanza said: "We hope the cells will provide a treatment not only for these two untreatable diseases but for other debilitating eye diseases."
Further testing is due to take place in the UK later in the year, and if it is successful, it is thought that the technique could be widely available within two years.
Around 30 per cent of people over the age of 75 are at risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Posted by Edward Bartel
1. ACT Announces First Patients Enrolled in Two Clinical Trials Using Embryonic Stem Cells to Treat Stargardt's Disease and Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Advanced Cell Technology, June 16th 2011
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