A pioneering trial of a new treatment derived from stem cells for people with ‘wet’ age-related macular degeneration (AMD) commenced at Moorfields Eye Hospital following a successful operation on a patient.
This first operation is a major milestone in the London Project to Cure Blindness, which was established 10 years ago with the aim of curing vision loss in patients with wet AMD, and is the result of a partnership between the hospital, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Pfizer Inc. joined the partnership [in 2009] with the goal of helping to turn the original idea into a potential therapy.
The trial is investigating the safety and efficacy of transplanting eye cells (retinal pigment epithelium) derived from stem cells, to treat people with sudden severe visual loss from wet AMD. These cells are used to replace those at the back of the eye that are diseased in AMD. This is done using a specially engineered patch inserted behind the retina in an operation lasting one to two hours.
The first surgery was successfully performed on a patient in late 2015 and there have been no complications to date
The patient wishes to remain anonymous, but the team hope to determine her outcome in terms of initial visual recovery by early 2016.
“There is real potential that people with wet age-related macular degeneration will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells,” says retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz from Moorfields Eye Hospital, who is performing the operations and is co-leading the London Project.
The trial will recruit 10 patients in total over a period of 18 months. Each patient will be followed for a year to assess the safety and stability of the cells and whether there is an effect in restoring vision.
Professor Pete Coffey of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, who is also co-leading the London Project, said: “We are tremendously pleased to have reached this stage in the research for a new therapeutic approach. Although we recognise this clinical trial focuses on a small group of AMD patients who have experienced
sudden severe visual loss, we hope that many patients maybenefit in the future.”