For the first time in history, researchers have safely and successfully transplanted human skin stem cells into the back of the eye as a means to restore eye sight.
The results of the surgery and the research involved are being presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) this week in Seattle, Washington USA.
During the surgery, a tiny sample of skin was removed from the patient's arm, and treated in a way that generates pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), which are adult cells that have been reprogrammed into an embryonic stem cell-like form. From here, they can then be transformed into any cell type found in the body.
In this case, the iPSCs were used to generate eye cells, which were injected into the patient's retina at the back of the eye. The transplanted cells survived without any serious complication for over a year, and after healing, the patient had moderately improved vision.
The patient involved in the experimental surgery suffers from advanced wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and has not responded to any other treatment methods that are currently prescribed to AMD sufferers at large.