Stem cells successfully treat blindness

Published: 1:48PM Wednesday October 15, 2014 Source: AP

An experimental treatment for blindness that uses embryonic stem cells appears to be safe, and it improved vision in more than half of the patients who got it.

Researchers followed 18 patients for up to three years after treatment.

The studies are the first to show safety of an embryonic stem cell treatment in humans for such a long period.

"It's a wonderful first step but it doesn't prove that (stem cells) work," said Chris Mason, chair of regenerative medicine at University College London, who was not part of the research.

He said it was encouraging the studies proved the treatment is safe and dispelled fears about stem cells promoting tumour growth.

Embryonic stem cells, which are recovered from embryos, can become any cell in the body.

They are considered controversial by some because they involve destroying an embryo and some critics say adult stem cells, which are derived from tissue samples, should be used instead.

Scientists have long thought about transforming them into specific types of cells to help treat various diseases.

In the new research, scientists turned stem cells into retinal cells to treat people with macular degeneration or Stargardt's macular dystrophy, the leading causes of blindness in adults and children.

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Stem cells successfully treat blindness

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