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Medicine United Kingdom Science

Patients Regain Sight After Groundbreaking Trial (bbc.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Doctors have taken a major step towards curing the most common form of blindness in the UK -- age-related macular degeneration. Douglas Waters, 86, could not see out of his right eye, but "I can now read the newspaper" with it, he says. He was one of two patients given pioneering stem cell therapy at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Cells from a human embryo were grown into a patch that was delicately inserted into the back of the eye.

The macula is the part of the eye that allows you to see straight ahead -- whether to recognize faces, watch TV or read a book. The macula is made up of rods and cones that sense light and behind those are a layer of nourishing cells called the retinal pigment epithelium. When this support layer fails, it causes macular degeneration and blindness. Doctors have devised a way of building a new retinal pigment epithelium and surgically implanting it into the eye. The technique, published in Nature Biotechnology, starts with embryonic stem cells. These are a special type of cell that can become any other in the human body. They are converted into the type of cell that makes up the retinal pigment epithelium and embedded into a scaffold to hold them in place. The living patch is only one layer of cells thick -- about 40 microns -- and 6mm long and 4mm wide. It is then placed underneath the rods and cones in the back of the eye. The operation takes up to two hours.

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Patients Regain Sight After Groundbreaking Trial

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  • Get this guy a hacksaw.

    But in all seriousness, that's seriously awesome. Was this wet AMD or dry AMD? Because the description doesn't sound like either one.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The BBC article says both patients had wet AMD.

      • Re: Whoa. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @08:35PM (#56294595)

        The BBC article says both patients had wet AMD.

        Only 10-15% of AMD are "wet". Also wet AMD often only affects one eye. Dry AMD usually affects both.

        This is still great news, and hopefully there will be new breakthroughs on the dry side soon. AMD affects more than 10 million people just in America, roughly 3% of the population, and that is expected to grow with demographic changes, doubling by 2050 without new treatments. An effective treatment will make a huge difference to the quality of life of many people.

        • Re: Whoa. (Score:4, Funny)

          by GreatDrok ( 684119 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @09:46PM (#56294891) Journal

          "This is still great news, and hopefully there will be new breakthroughs on the dry side soon. AMD affects more than 10 million people just in America, roughly 3% of the population"

          True, but this is a product of socialist medicine in the UK so that's what, communism? Or something? I'm sure Americans would rather stay blind than endorse such an anti-capitalist system of medicine.

          • True, but this is a product of socialist medicine in the UK so that's what, communism?

            Per capita, America spends more than twice as much on medical research as the UK. In fact, America spends nearly as much as the rest of the world combined.

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            Great news, what ever happened to sythetic lenses or lenses grown outside the human body and then used to replace the tired, worn old, less bendy lense, so much promised for so long with so little delivered, and it's not like there would not be a shit bucket ton of profit in it. Are we plagued by the glasses monopoly http://wire.kapitall.com/inves... [kapitall.com], are those poor excuses for human beings blocking synthetic lenses, they would.

        • How's the frame rate compare with nVidia?

          Sorry, couldn't help myself. This is amazing and all that but you put a pun like that in front of nerd... it's like steak before a poorly trained dog.
    • Was this wet AMD or dry AMD

      Two wet ones so far.

      They plan to test on more, including dry also.

    • Get this guy a hacksaw.

      But in all seriousness, that's seriously awesome. Was this wet AMD or dry AMD? Because the description doesn't sound like either one.

      What? People who get AMD go blind? A reason to buy Intel maybe. Then you won't go blind or lose an ARM.

  • we get some medical breakthroughs. I don't think I can handle another SpaceX, 3D printer, virtual reality, cryptocurrency, or Apple story.

    None of these things matter if you can't see.

    • I don't think I can handle another SpaceX, 3D printer, virtual reality, cryptocurrency, or Apple story.

      Then you probably want to avoid medical-breakthrough stories.

      3-D printers are starting to be big in medicine.
      - Building replacement parts of complex organs by printing tissue scaffolds.
      - Ditto by seeding them with stem cells (rather than waiting for the body to infiltrate them) and/or putting the right cells in the right place from the start.
      - Making practice models for surgeons, be

  • I'm sure all the old pro-lifers that are going blind will reject this treatment on principle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trogre ( 513942 )

      Probably.

      From their point of view, regaining their sight is worth a lot, but isn't worth sacrificing another human life.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You are aware that embryonic cells can be harvested from the placenta, and mother still delivers colostrum to her living child?

        Sorry to burst your drama bubble.

        • by Trogre ( 513942 )

          ... if that were the case here, then pro-lifers wouldn't have a problem with it, would they?

          • I bet my eye sight that those "pro-lifers" won't have a problem whatsoever with it as long as they can see again.

            Show me one moralist that doesn't immediately go into full reverse as soon as it affects him personally.

        • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @08:14PM (#56294489)

          Also, from skin cells [thetech.org] making the entire political debate kinda moot. Some people will never bury the hatchet. Once a term is associated with politics, it'll always live under a shadow. Kinda sucks.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Also, from skin cells making the entire process ethically viable.

            FTFY

            "Non-embryonic" is an important distinction and should really be used more. The implication being that no babies were killed in the curing of this disease.

  • Bright future. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @08:18PM (#56294507)

    I remember when stem cell therapy was first making the news and getting people excited. It's really nice to read when that sort of basic research pays off with applied medicine. It's seeing the sci-fi books come to you and makes the future look a little more bright.

  • This is so many levels of awesome, that I have no other words for it.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson

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