March 20, 2018 -- Stem cell therapy restored some vision to two patients with a common cause of blindness called age-related macular degeneration, U.K. doctors say.
Stem cells from a human embryo were converted into a patch of a specific type of eye cell and grown in the lab. The patch was then inserted into the back of one eye in each patient, BBC News reported.
The operations on a woman in her sixties and an 86-year-old man were performed at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. A year later, both patients still have improved vision in the treated eye.
The results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Eight more patients are scheduled to take part in the clinical trial.
"We've restored vision where there was none," Professor Lyndon da Cruz, consultant retinal surgeon at Moorfields, told BBC News.
"It's incredibly exciting. As you get older, parts of you stop working and for the first time we've been able to take a cell and make it into a specific part of the eye that's failing and put it back in the eye and get vision back," he said.
However, da Cruz stopped short of calling this a cure because it does not completely restore normal vision, BBC News reported.
"What's exciting about this study is that the patients recorded an increase in vision," according to Carmel Toomes, Leeds Institutes of Molecular Medicine.
"To see an improvement is a good sign that this therapy may help patients in the future, although further studies are needed before real conclusions can be drawn," Toomes told BBC News.