British scientists will soon begin trialling a cutting-edge treatment using adult stem cells that could help cure certain types of blindness, they announced.
The two-year trial, to be conducted at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh and the Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow, will begin this month and involve 20 patients with corneal blindness.
The treatment being used involves using the stem cells of dead adult donors, rather than the more controversial research involving embryonic stem cells, and if successful could help millions of people around the world who suffer from corneal blindness, around 80% of whom are elderly.
As part of the process, adult stem cells are cultivated and then transplanted onto the cornea's surface.
Stem cells could be key in cure
"This study is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and it is exciting to be involved in such groundbreaking work," said Professor Bal Dhillon, who is heading the trial. "I probably see two or three new cases of corneal disease every month. On a larger scale, it's a significant problem."
A similar study by the University of Pennsylvania in the United States last year found that people with inherited blindness saw dramatic improvements in their vision when a corrective gene was injected into their eyes.
Scientists believe stem cells, which are capable of developing into almost every tissue of the body, could prove key in finding a cure for a number of serious diseases, including also diabetes and cancer. – (Sapa, January 2009)
Woman blind 3 days a week