Stem cells restore eyesight


This is not the first time we have used the pages in this blog to echo the exciting possibilities today of stem cells to regenerate human organs. We have to acknowledge, however, that perhaps the medical advances we are going to discuss in this post may be the most spectacular of all those which have appeared to date in Best Doctors’ Blog.

The importance of some new research

The breakthrough comes out of some new research carried out in the USA with 18 patients which has shown that transplanting adult stem cells into the retinas of patients with serious ocular damage does not result in rejection and, what is more, can reverse damage that was previously incurable.

The results could not be clearer or more conclusive. The 18 patients who took part in the research all had incurable retina diseases, which is the main cause of blindness both in young people and adults in advanced countries. The stem cell transplants were successful in every case, improving the patients’ vision and providing evidence of incredible progress in some people.

Steven Schwartz, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and one of the leaders of the research said “The main message from this study is that there is hope.”

In order to continue making progress, a further trial is now necessary, with greater numbers of patients. The results obtained to date, however, are such that, although they do not usually talk in terms of dates, the scientists are already talking about possibly using this treatment for thousands of patients by around 2020.

Overcoming problems of blindness and also transplant rejection

In recent decades, experts researching stem cell transplant have been particularly concerned about rejection and the possible development of tumours. Fortunately, these obstacles have been overcome year after year. At the same time, increasingly sound research has been undertaken, led by leading ophthalmological centres and prestigious universities, such as Harvard, which has just been published in the pages of the journal, The Lancet.

Being able to see again changes your life

There is no doubt that what is most important about medical advances of this magnitude is how this impacts on the daily lives of blind people or those who have impaired vision.

Small or routine tasks that are impossible for these people, such as distinguishing different colours, looking at yourself in the mirror or knowing what the time is by glancing at your watch, can now become a reality.

Best Doctors is particularly delighted to be able to pass on a piece of news such as this. It is good news that can restore sight, hope and, for those people who have suffered from blindness that was incurable until now, a part of their lives, which has been lost.

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