New stem cell transplant trialled for dry AMD

blue eye

A new stem cell implant could improve vision in people with sight loss caused by dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), new research suggests.

A US study has found that when implanted at the back of the eye in people with dry AMD, the patch improved or stabilised vision.

In a study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers grew a layer of stem cells on an ultra-thin membrane to replace the lost cells beneath the retina. The stem cell layer was implanted under the retina of four patients at an advanced stage of the condition. 

In follows-ups completed up to 12 months after the procedure, no further vision loss was reported. In one case, the implant improved the patient's vision within four months of surgery. 

The study was small and did not include control subjects, which would confirm statistical and clinical relevance. However, the results mark a huge step towards finding a cure for dry AMD, the most common cause of blindness in the UK. 

The trial is now being extended to study 20 patients over a five-year period to test the effectiveness of the implant. The research team has hopes that the implant will be more effective in restoring vision for people in earlier stages of the disease.