Blind Man Can Now See, Thanks To Stem Cell Treatment

A clinical stem-cell treatment trial which began in 2011 has miraculously restored a man's vision. The man lost his sight due to the degeneration of his retinal cells and now thanks to stem-cell treatment, he can see well enough to drive.

The trial examines the safety of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) use to reverse two causes of blindness. Slight improvements were reported by participants a couple of years ago at the beginning of the trial, but this man made a significant improvement.

The stem-cell treatment reversed the blindness in his affected eye. The vision went from 20/400, which is clinically blind to 20/40, which means the eye now has sight.

"There's a guy walking around who was blind, but now can see. With that sort of vision, you can have a driver's license," chief executive officer of Advanced Cell Technology, Gary Rabin said.

Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), located in Marlborough, Mass created the treatment from human embryos. The trials have already treated 22 patients who suffered from dry age-related macular degeneration or Stargardt's macular dystrophy.

The common chronic condition called dry age-related macular degeneration causes loss of vision in the center of the retina. Stargardt's macular dystrophy is a genetic condition and also affects the retina causing vision loss over a period of time. Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in the eye are gradually lost and this eventually affects photoreceptors, which capture light.

It's not clear what eye condition the man who underwent the remarkable improvement in vision had, but the results are promising. ACT is currently treating both conditions by converting hESCs into new RPE cells and then transplanting the cells into the eye. Data from the trial will be published once all of the results are available.  

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