Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy
Top Scientific Breakthroughs 2018: Curing Blindness
Nov 28 2018 Read 1466 Times
We’re taking a closer look at some of the many ground-breaking scientific discoveries of 2018. Our previous posts have looked at the worthy winners of the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Physics and Medicine.
This post is going to delve into the complex and life-changing work of two British doctors, who used stem cells to restore the sight of two patients in the UK.
The most common cause of blindness in the UK is age-related macular degeneration. This happens when the part of the eye’s retina that allows detailed vision, known as the macular, is damaged by abnormal blood vessels or deposits of a fatty protein.
It can lead to loss of central vision, making it difficult to read or recognise faces, and it can worsen over time. As part of the research, two patients were offered experimental stem cell therapy at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. The patients were suffering from impaired vision, and even complete loss of vision in one eye.
How does the treatment work?
To complete the procedure, cells were first harvested from a human embryo. Stem cells are great for scientific research and treatment because they can grow and adapt to become any type of cell in the human body.
The doctors converted the stem cells into the cells necessary for the retina and coated them with a synthetic compound, fixed onto a ‘patch’ to keep them in place. The patch is only 6mm long, 4mm wide and 40 microns thick, meaning it can fit smoothly onto the back of the patient’s eye.
The two patients spent a year with the patch on their eyes before reporting significant improvements to their vision, being able to read a newspaper and recognise faces again.
While the cell treatment wasn’t flawless, it is a huge step towards helping the 600,000 sufferers in the UK. This treatment gives hope to those with age-related macular degeneration and, with further research and experiments, could lead to a cure for vision impairment in the future.
The ‘patch’ is currently being developed into a readily available and affordable solution for those currently suffering with vision impairment around the world.
Want to know about scientific developments? Take a look at our next post on the success scientists have had growing vegetables in Antarctica, or read the article ‘Using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) to Track Free Radicals in the Environment’.
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