23 November 2010
US FDA has approved treatment that will involve usage of stem cells from embryos left over after fertility treatment
The first phase of the trial will involve injecting embryonic stem cells into the eyes of teenagers and young men and women with a hereditary form of blindness.
Tests on older people with age–related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common form of blindness in the elderly, are expected to follow next year, said Robert Lanza, a leading stem cell researcher at Advanced Cell Technology.
Dr Lanza will soon announce that his team has been granted permission to carry out the human trial, the Daily Mail reported.
"Although the initial trials will take place in the US, British trials are likely to follow. If they replicate the phenomenol results of animal tests, the lives of millions could be transformed," said the report.
"However, the use of cells generated from embryos in the first days of life is controversial, with pro – life groups saying it is wrong to plunder an u n b o r n baby to advance medical science," it added.
In this new treatment, the researchers said, the body’s ‘master cells’, or stem cells, can turn into other cell types and have tremendous potential as a repair kit for the body.
Dr Lanza’s recipe of vitamins and other chemicals turns the cells into healthy versions of the cells that become damaged at the back of the eye in AMD and other forms of blindness.
"This is a huge milestone for us," said Dr Lanza, adding he would apply for permission to carry out trials on Britons with eye disease such as AMD, which affects 300,000 people in Britain alone.
AMD is a condition that affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of the eye called the macula. It causes problems with your central vision, but does not lead to total loss of sight and is not painful.