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Breakthrough treatment may cure 50% of all cases of blindness
Half of all blindness in humans is due to macular degeneration. There looks to be a cure.
Macular degeneration, an age-related condition that results eventually in blindness, has been successfully treated in two elderly patients in the United Kingdom.
The breakthrough happened using a form of stem cell treatment, and the result has millions hoping for a treatment and cure to be ready for deployment to the general population sooner rather than later.
The eye disease is responsible for half of all cases of blindness worldwide. The culprit? Cells behind the light-sensitive rods and cones that make up the retina begin break down; “retinal pigment epithelium,” it’s called. That layer of cells both removes waste and transports nutrients. When they begin to fail, materials that build up kill surrounding cells.
Over time, the degeneration causes a blind spot that starts to interfere with vision; this begins around age 50 for those afflicted and it gradually gets worse.
The position of the blind spots are in a tiny area called the macula, which interprets fine details in our vision; the more spots, the less detail we can see.
Recognizing human faces, watching television, using computers and phones, and even reading are compromised.
Two other therapies for this condition, one involving injections—with a needle... directly into the eye—and one involving inserting a virus into the eye, both have various limitations, so this particular therapy shows great promise.
It works like this: A patch of embryonic stem cells specifically engineered and measuring just 40 microns thick and 4x6 mm wide, is inserted into the retina and begins to repair the damage.
"In the months before the operation, my sight was really poor and I couldn't see anything out of my right eye," 86-year-old Douglas Waters, one of the test subjects, told the BBC.
“It's brilliant what the team have done and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back.” He can now read a newspaper again.
Ophthalmologist Pete Coffey from the University College London's Institute of Ophthalmology sees optimism in the tests. "We hope this will lead to an affordable 'off-the-shelf' therapy that could be made available to NHS patients within the next five years."
It will be tested next in eight subjects to see how they do. Predictions are that, if successful, this treatment will be available in five years.
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The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
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