AMD patients have regained sight

Patients regain sight after being first to receive retinal tissue engineered from stem cells

The first patients to receive a new treatment derived from stem cells for people with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have regained reading vision. The results of this ground-breaking clinical study, published in Nature Biotechology, described the implantation of a specially engineered patch of retinal pigment epithelium cells derived from stem cells to treat people with sudden severe sight loss from wet AMD. It is hoped that it will also help treat dry AMD in the future.  

Pete Coffey (left) and Lyndon da Cruz (right)
Professor Pete Coffey (left) from University College London and Professor Lyndon da Cruz (right), a retinal Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital.

  • AMD is the most common cause of sight loss in the UK, and can lead to a rapid loss of central (reading) vision.

The London Project to Cure Blindness, who carried out this research, is a collaboration between Professor Pete Coffey from University College London and Professor Lyndon da Cruz, a retinal Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital. The programme aims to bring stem cell therapy for retinal diseases, especially for age-related macular degeneration to the clinic as rapidly as possible. “The fact is, once the nerves in the retina start to be damaged through disease, they don’t regrow,” says Professor Lyndon da Cruz. “So, people lose their central and high-quality vision. It would be powerful if we could put back what’s missing.”

  • Since its inception, philanthropy has played, and continues to play, a significant role in funding this programme, including continued support from Moorfields Eye Charity

The London Project to Cure Blindness was established by a philanthropic donation from an anonymous American donor. We are extremely grateful to the continued generosity of our donors who play a critical role in the project’s advancement. Part of the next stages of this research programme is to establish a mechanism to replace more than just retinal pigment epithelium cells and with this the potential to develop a cure for all forms of AMD and other blinding retinal conditions, dramatically improving the quality of life for patients and reducing the burden on the NHS and other health services around the world. This is just one the many advancements in the area of AMD at Moorfields Eye Hospital. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are enabling our researchers to continue developing a better understanding of AMD to discover potential treatments. Below are some of the projects currently underway:

The garbage disposal units of the retina

Lysosomes are parts of a cell which act like garbage disposal units breaking down and helping dispose of debris so that it doesn’t build up in the cell.  Genetic defects and age related diseases can cause the lysosomes not to work properly and this can lead to the cells dying.  An early event in the development of dry AMD is an inability of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells to efficiently degrade and clear the shed material, leading to an accumulation of material inside and outside the cells, which can progress to photoreceptor cell death and a loss of sight. A PhD studentship funded by Moorfields Eye Charity through a generous gift from a donor will focus on understanding how the shed photoreceptor fragments are delivered to and degraded by the lysosomes within RPE cells, and how this may fail in aged cells. Using RPE cells grown in a dish, the project aims to recreate the changes often seen in early AMD, to identify potential therapeutic targets for early intervention.

Seeing the light

Thanks to the generous donations by supporters of Moorfields Eye Charity, researchers will investigate a new light treatment therapy to improve vision in patients with early or dry AMD.  The pilot study is based at Moorfield Eye Hospital where participants will be given a light therapy treatment which uses a very specific wavelength from the red part of the spectrum.  During the course of this study images will be taken of the retina and the participants’ vision will be tested.  Information from this study will help inform the design of a clinical trial with the potential to develop a relatively inexpensive and user friendly treatment approach.

Using artificial intelligence to advance healthcare

Moorfields Eye Hospital is at the leading edge of artificial intelligence in healthcare.  As the population ages, diseases that affect sight such as age related macular degeneration becomes more prevalent. To improve healthcare for patients it is important to find quick and reliable methods of early diagnosis so that patients benefit from preventative treatments.  Moorfields Eye Charity is supporting this programme through an equipment grant supporting the development of fast and efficient computer aided screening to replace time consuming and error prone methods. 

 

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