Stem cell trial suggests a treatment could be possible for age-related macular degeneration

It's a condition that Judi Dench struggles with, but it seems a cure could be on the horizon for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The condition, which sees people’s eyesight fail as they get older, is said to affect around 600,000 people in the UK.

But a recent trial – whose results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology – has suggested that it could be possible for sufferers to regain their sight with a new treatment.

Two patients – a man in his 80s and a woman in her 60s – underwent the groundbreaking trial, which saw scientists place a patch of stem cell tissue under the retina – the part of the eye that registers images. All of the subjects in the small trial had the severe version of the condition, called ‘wet’, where sight loss develops rapidly.

And remarkably, both patients saw a marked improvement in their ability to see.

Both of them reported that they were now able to read 60-80 words per minute with reading glasses – whereas before, they couldn’t read anything at all.

86-year-old Douglas Waters was diagnosed with macular degeneration in July 2015, and began treatment with the stem cells some months after.

Speaking about the success of the treatment he told Sky News, “In the months before the operation my sight was really poor and I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye. I was struggling to see things clearly, even when up-close.

“After the surgery my eyesight improved to the point where I can now read the newspaper and help my wife out with the gardening.

“It’s brilliant what the team have done and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back.”

It’s reported that the treatment could be available on the NHS within five years.

The small trial was undertaken by eye hospital Moorfields, and University College London.

MORE: Judi Dench opens up about her struggle with her failing eyesight

Professor Lyndon da Cruz, who is a retinal surgeon at Moorfields Hospital said the results of the trial are certainly encouraging.

She said, “The results suggest that this new therapeutic approach is safe and provides good visual outcomes.

“The patients who received the treatment had very severe AMD, and their improved vision will go some way towards enhancing their quality of life.”

Judi Dench is one celebrity who has famously suffered with the condition. She has spoken openly about the effects it has on her life, admitting that she’s often unable to watch films due to the difficulties AMD presents.

She said, “Because my eyesight is so bad now, I can’t actually see very much and so I do go but a friend of mine usually has to say: ‘He’s kissing her now’ or ‘He’s walking away’.

“So a lot of things I miss – it’s not so much fun.”

83-year-old Judi also admitted that she has to be extra careful when walking now too, saying, “I miss steps and things if I’m not told.”

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