Stem cell trial aims to restore sight for people with wet AMD

Post date: 
Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A pioneering trial of a new treatment derived from stem cells for people with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has begun at Moorfields Eye Hospital, following a successful operation on a patient.

Surgery was successfully performed on a patient in August and there have been no complications to date. The patient wishes to remain anonymous, but the team hope to determine her outcome in terms of initial visual recovery by early December 2015.
 
The operation is a major milestone in the London Project to Cure Blindness, which was established with the aim of curing vision loss in patients with wet AMD.
 
It is a partnership between the hospital, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Pfizer Inc with the goal of helping to turn the original idea into a potential therapy.
 
The trial is investigating the safety and efficacy of transplanting eye cells (retinal pigment epithelium) derived from stem cells to treat people with sudden severe visual loss from wet AMD. These cells are used to replace those at the back of the eye that are diseased in AMD. This is done using a specially engineered patch inserted behind the retina in an operation lasting one to two hours.
 
The trial will recruit 10 patients over a period of 18 months. Each patient will be followed for a year to assess the safety and stability of the cells and whether there is an effect in restoring vision.
 
“There is real potential that people with wet age-related macular degeneration will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells,” says retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz from Moorfields Eye Hospital, who is performing the operations and is co-leading the London Project.
 
Professor Pete Coffey of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, who is also co-leading the London Project, said: “We are tremendously pleased to have reached this stage in the research for a new therapeutic approach.  Although we recognise this clinical trial focuses on a small group of AMD patients who have experienced sudden severe visual loss, we hope that many patients may benefit in the future.”
 
Professor Sir Peng Tee Khaw, Director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre based at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, added: “We are delighted to be the site for this very exciting new clinical trial in stem cell therapy, which has the potential to give hope and make such a difference to the lives of people with blinding retinal conditions.”
 
Dr Berkeley Phillips, UK Medical Director, Pfizer Ltd added: “Stem cell-derived therapy was only a theory until recent years, and to be part of a project that is applying the latest scientific breakthroughs to help restore patients’ eyesight is truly rewarding.”
 
If the treatment is successful, the scientists believe, it could also help patients in the early stages of dry AMD, and could potentially halt their vision loss.
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