A new experiment tries to conclude if restoring a blind person’s eye mitochondria may positively affect eyesight and whether the stem based surgery is secure enough to be applied on a large scale.
A team of scientists are hoping to find a way to put an end to age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss in people over age 55. In addition, experts are trying to find a way to reverse the condition, and they are hopeful that they will succeed.
The experts said that all they have to do is recreate the layer of affected cells with lab-made stem cells, then replace the old layer with the new one in people with blindness. Although that might not restore their sight completely, scientists believe that the benefit would be significant and it will give sufferers most of their visual functions back.
Until now, scientists only had performed one surgery. The first patient’s treatment was with embryonic stem cells conceived in such a way that they would reverse the effects caused by blindness. The trial took place in the UK and it has been successful. Scientists are now planning to apply the same procedure on ten other patients who suffer of age-related macular degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration generally attacks the cells that are impaired or the areas of the eye with no cells at all. When most of the eye is affected, blindness settles in.
However, people of the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, University College London, declared that the first trial is already a stepping stone towards finding a proper cure for blindness. The team is pleased that their idea finally reached a stage where they can think a new possible treatment to the condition exists, and that it could be more effective than any other.
Because the experiment has not been tried before, scientists remain concerned about whether replacing stem cells carry any other risk than those they have thought about. The safety of such an experiment must always be understood before applying it in haste. In short, many other trials will have to be carried in order for the surgery to reach the public.
Both critics and specialists are considering the treatment to be a leap into the unknown. However, they are hopeful that the treatment will be effective and that there will be no side-effects in the people who underwent the procedure.
Although many experts are skeptical about the project, mainly due to the extensive research behind it, the scientists in charge with the trials say that they are sure their procedure will soon become as common as any other eye surgery and bring blindness in adults to an end.
However, currently there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, and all available treatments only work if they are applied in time, and in the milder forms of the condition.
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