A trial of a new treatmentderived from stem cells forpeople with ‘wet’ age-relatedmacular degeneration (AMD) has started at Moorfields EyeHospital in London, followinga successful operation on apatient.

The operation is a milestone in the London Project to Cure Blindness, which was established ten years ago with the aim of curing vision loss in patients with wet AMD and involves the hospital, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, the National Institute for Health Research and Pfizer Inc. The trial is investigating the safety and efficacy of transplanting eye cells derived from stem cells to treat people with sudden severe visual loss from wet AMD. The cells are used to replace those at the back of the eye that are diseased in AMD, using a specially engineered patch inserted behind the retina.

With the first surgery having beensuccessfully performed, the team hopes todetermine her initial visual recovery by earlyDecember. Retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz, from Moorfields Eye Hospital, who is performing the operations and is co-leading the London Project,said:“There is real potential that people with wet age-related macular degeneration will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells.” The trial will recruit ten patients over 18 months. Each patient will be followed for a year to assess the safety, effectiveness and stability of the cells. Professor Pete Coffey, of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, who is also co-leading the London Project, said:“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 may benefit in the future.” Dr Berkeley Phillips, UK Medical Director, Pfizer Ltd, said:“Stem cell-derived therapy was only a theory until recent years and to be part of a project that is applying the latest scientific breakthroughs to help restore patients’eyesight is truly rewarding.”