Stem cell research has been a hot button issue for quite some time now. But it is hard to deny the potential that lies inside the research, regardless of your ethical stance on the matter. The debate took a new turn this week as a team of UK researchers and doctors have teamed up to perform the very first stem cell eye procedure. The procedure, if successful, could be used to treat hundreds of thousands of macular degeneration sufferers in UK.
According to The Guardian, doctors will know by December whether the patient, who has age-related macular degeneration, has regained her sight after a successful operation at Moorfield Eye Hospital in London.
The procedure is the product of the London Project to Cure Blindness and involves eye cells, called retinal pigment epithelium. These cells, derived from stem cells can be placed behind the retina, forming a type of “patch”. The procedure has the potential of restoring sight to a population of men and women who, until now, have had little cause to think that their situation could ever change.
Researchers will know by this December whether or not the procedure will have the intended results. This is the first step in the much longer process of bringing this type of surgery to the mainstream. Currently, the proposed stem cell research only applies to patients suffering from “wet” macular degeneration, but doctors are hopeful that the procedure could eventually improve the sight of patients with the “dry” variety as well.