By Stephen Adams for The Mail on Sunday
Published: 01:44 BST, 14 April 2019 | Updated: 01:44 BST, 14 April 2019
Victims of a devastating form of blindness have been given hope by a new stem-cell treatment that rejuvenates the eyes.
There is no cure for retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition that slowly constricts vision, but a British firm has reported early success with a revolutionary procedure that helps to repair a damaged retina.
The treatment involves growing billions of ‘progenitor’ stem cells in a laboratory. These have the ability to transform themselves into other types of cell depending on where they are placed in the body.
A million stem cells are injected into the back of the patient’s eyeball. Once there, they transform themselves into new light-sensitive cells called rods and cones which replace those lost prematurely to genetic flaws.
Tests on three patients – two men and a woman – who were legally blind produced ‘exciting’ results, according to Olav Hellebo, chief executive of UK biotech firm ReNeuron.
Before the procedure, the three could read only the largest group of letters on a special eye test chart, but 18 days after being injected with the cells, their sight had improved to the point where they could read three letter sizes smaller.
One patient achieved sufficient progress to no longer be