Stem Cell Cure for Macular Degeneration?

Stem cell treatments may be the cure for macular degeneration.  With an American biotech company called Advanced Cell Technology set to apply for a license for using stem cells to treat the eye disease, macular degeneration patients may have a new hope for a cure.

The new stem cell treatment has the potential to save the vision of millions of people who suffer from the incurable eye disease macular degeneration.  Patients would receive an injection of human stem cells that is hoped could repair the damaged eyes.

The stem cells to be used in the macular degeneration treatment will be taken from spare embryos left over after IVF treatments.  These stem cells will be injected directly into the retina, the area of the eye that is damaged by macular degeneration.

Stem Cells have shown to have the ability to develop into any type of tissue in the body, including retinal cells.  It is hoped that these stem cells can and will develop into retinal cells that will reverse the damage caused by eye diseases such as macular degeneration.

This stem cell treatment for macular degeneration is seen as controversial because many “pro life” groups oppose the use of human stem cells for medical research.  However the potential for curing conditions such as macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease and other incurable conditions is seen to outweigh those concerns.

Cathy Yelf of the Macular Disease Society states ““Obviously it is extremely interesting and we certainly welcome it very much indeed.  It is in a way a holy grail because it would enable people to get the therapy that probably holds out most hope for people who have the disease. If people can regrow healthy retinal cells then that would be a wonderful thing.”

With trials for another form of macular degeneration, Stargardt’s Disease expected to begin by March, it is hoped treatments for other eye diseases can take place as well.  Dr. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology said it plans to follow this trial of stem cell treatment for Stargardt’s with another application to treat macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration attacks the retinal cells and results in the loss of central vision.  Currently treatments for the more serious form of the eye disease, wet macular degeneration involves injections of drugs such as Avastin or Lucentis.  Dry macular degeneration has no viable treatments.

Using stem cells to treat (or cure) macular degeneration would be welcomed by many.  Being at the stage where stem cells are being trialled to treat macular degeneration in humans is a major step in advancing treatments or for providing a cure for this eye disease.