A patient with wet AMD has received pioneering stem cell treatment at Moorfields Eye Hospital using a specially engineered patch inserted behind the retina in an operation lasting one to two hours.

The operation was described as a major milestone in the London Project to Cure Blindness – a partnership between the hospital, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, the National Institute for Health Research and Pfizer.

It formed part of a trial investigating the safety and efficacy of transplanting retinal pigment epithelium derived from stem cells to treat people with sudden severe visual loss from wet AMD.

During the operation, which took place last month, cells were used to replace those at the back of the female patient’s eye – with no complications to date. Surgeons hoped to determine her outcome in terms of initial visual recovery by early December this year.

‘There is real potential that people with wet age-related macular degeneration will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells,’ said retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz from Moorfields Eye Hospital, who performed the operations and is co-leading the London Project.

The wider trial was recruiting 10 patients over an 18 month period, who would be followed for a year to assess the safety and stability of the cells and whether there is an effect in restoring vision.

Professor Pete Coffey of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, added: ‘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.’

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