Researchers have recently begun trials to investigate the safety of a stem cell derived treatment for Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD, ARMD). The treatment involves implanting replacement retinal pigment epithelial cells derived from human embryos. Already there has been some success, with both subjects reported on experiencing an improvement in vision. The trial is continuing, with more subjects being treated. The main aim at the moment for this trial is to determine if this way of treating ARMD is safe- stem cells could differentiate into any cell type, so there is a risk of a type of tumour called a teratoma, though as the researchers have implanted cells which have already been differentiated (they have already been told to be Retinal Pigment Epithelial (RPE) Cells), hopefully this risk will be minimal.
If successful, this treatment will be most useful to prevent damage to the retinal photoreceptor layer. The photoreceptors require support from the RPE, and become damaged after the RPE becomes damaged. Therefore this treatment may in future be a preventative, but may restore some function in more advanced cases.
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