Patients' sight maintained five years after groundbreaking stem cell treatment

Posted: Thursday 28 May 2020

Patients who were the first to receive a new treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) derived from stem cells in 2015 have maintained improvements in their vision five years on.

In 2018 it was reported that the first patients to receive a new treatment derived from stem cells had gone from not being able to read at all, even with glasses, to reading 50-80 words per minute with normal reading glasses.

Five years since the procedure took place, eye-researcher Professor Pete Coffey has confirmed the patients have maintained the improvements in their vision.

Before receiving the treatment the first patient was reading at a speed of one and a half words per minute, but after the operation is able to read up to 80 words a minute. The second patient, who couldn’t read at all before the procedure, is now reading up to 50 words a minute.

In a special webinar about the project, Prof Coffey said the results had far surpassed their expectations.

He also confirmed that after the UK eases out of lockdown they are ready to treat the next round of patients in the trial.

While it is currently being trialled in patients with wet AMD it is hoped that in the future it will could be used to treat dry AMD – and potentially other types of macular disease.

The London Project to Cure Blindness was launched in 2007 with the ambition of rejuvenating cells which had been diseased by AMD. Unlike existing therapies for AMD it was hoped this treatment would not just maintain a patients’ vision, but restore it. In 2008 the project was funded by the Macular Society after a fundraising appeal to its members. 

The study investigated whether the diseased cells at the back the patients’ affected eye could be replenished, using a patch of new eye cells created from stem cells. A specially engineered surgical tool was used to insert the patch under the macular in the affected eye of each patient in an operation lasting one to two hours.

You cannot register your interest to take part in future trials for this particular study. However, the Macular Society is often approached to help find people willing to volunteer to participate in clinical trials and research studies. Our research participant database is for anyone with a macular condition, as well as healthy family members and volunteers. You can sign up to hear about research opportunities whether or not you are a member of the Macular Society by completing the form at