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Stem Cell Treatment To Cure the Most Common Cause of Blindness

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-can-see-clearly-now dept.

Medicine 126

The Times Online reports that researchers from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and Moorfields eye hospital have developed stem cell therapy that can treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness. They are currently moving the treatment through the regulatory approval process, and clinical trials are expected to start within two years. Quoting: "Under the new treatment, embryonic stem cells are transformed into replicas of the missing cells. They are then placed on an artificial membrane which is inserted in the back of the retina. ... [Professor Pete Coffey, director of the London Project to Cure Blindness] said the treatment would take 'less than an hour, so it really could be considered as an outpatient procedure. We are trying to get it out as a common therapy.'

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This is good and all (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27635901)

But don't let this discourage any mad scientist from creating ocular implants, especially ones with wifi and defensive laser beams.

Re:This is good and all (1)

SalaSSin (1414849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635917)

Why only defensive? I want on/off burn through anything attack laser beams!

Re:This is good and all (2, Funny)

soupforare (542403) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636153)

The best defense is a good offense.

Re:This is good and all (1)

THEbwana (42694) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636639)

.. mounted on my brand new SHARKS !!

Re:This is good and all (3, Funny)

defile39 (592628) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635973)

Perhaps they can be upgraded to transmit and safely receive x-rays.

Re:This is good and all (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636261)

But don't let this discourage any mad scientist from creating ocular implants, especially ones with wifi and defensive laser beams.

Porn. After you go blind from watching too much porn, you'll get an implant that beams the porn directly to your brain.

Re:This is good and all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638685)

Wow, these next generation prosthetic eyeballs are awesome. And with the matching bluetooth inner ear implants, what can I say? It will be durn near impossible to distinguish real reality from virtual reality. Oh, yeah, the inflatable computerized underwear..

Re:This is good and all (1)

varius (1536077) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636555)

you can see the headlines now, boy dies from brain based virus, contracted through watching too much porn

Re:This is good and all (2, Funny)

frieko (855745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636621)

Wait, how do you fit a shark into an eye socket?

Re:This is good and all (2, Funny)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637409)

Wait, how do you fit a shark into an eye socket?

Very carefully.

Re:This is good and all (2, Funny)

Neuticle (255200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27640965)

Wait, how do you fit a shark into an eye socket?

Very carefully.

I've found it helpful to practice with a camel and a needle-eye before attempting sharks and real eyes.

Cool! So when do we start breeding babies... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27637991)

to deliberately murder for this procedure? Does anyone know what the baby murder footprint is for this procedure? Hopefully somewhere in the tens of thousands...

Straight to stem-cell cures? (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635931)

I feel sorry for Larry Niven. Back in the 1960s and 1970s he was writing works of science fiction (e.g. the Gilm 'The Arm' Hamilton stories in Flatlander [amazon.com] ) that suggested that organ transplants were going to be so widespread as a cure that even the most minor crimes would get the death penalty. Instead, it looks like the human race may realize stem cell cures faster than anyone could have imagined. Oh, and Kurzweil suggests we'll all be in robot bodies before the century's end, so those great hard science fiction writers of half a century ago fall even further behind.

Re:Straight to stem-cell cures? (3, Informative)

juiceboxfan (990017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636279)

...Kurzweil suggests we'll all be in robot bodies before the century's end...

I think I would rather have the robot augmentation than chance stem cells turning on me. [sciam.com]

From the above link;
Then he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2005. That tumor, it turns out, grew out of the stem cells, obtained from at least two aborted fetuses, used in his brain.

Besides can stem cells give you telescopic vision? Now that would be cool!

Re:Straight to stem-cell cures? (2, Funny)

cagrin (146191) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636537)

Actually "synthetic" bodies which i suppose you could call robots have been around for quite some time...though it is hidden from the general public. Science fiction writers are often writing about technology existing in THEIR time(such as time travel and "star gates") but is not in the public eye. Start with the Omega and Majestic projects if you wish to research ;)

Good reason for that (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637969)

Back in the 50's, 60's and 70's, the USA would fund such things because we were a rich nation. We, that is society, felt that by funding regular research that we would improve everybody's lot in life, as well our nation. Fortunately, reagan and the republican party saw how much money that fundamental and applied research was costing America and had it stopped before it bankrupted America. Combine that with W's tax cuts for moving research and jobs offshore and we have now accelerated the growth of that research.

On a side note, you have forgotten the recent camera implant for the eye socket. Right now, it does not solve much, but with some research by the govs in China, India, Brazil, and even Iran, it will happen.

Re:Good reason for that (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638137)

And the world will have the technology just as much as if the US had developed it.

Re:Good reason for that (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638563)

Not really. The world would have had it MUCH sooner had we been doing what we had been doing in the 50's, 60's, and 70's.

Do not get me wrong. I am not opposed to other nations doing this. I am opposed to our having killed our RD work, while running up debt in much higher numbers.

Re:Straight to stem-cell cures? (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638461)

Star Trek: The Next Generation had Geordi La Forge [wikipedia.org] wearing a visor that gave him sight. Now all he needs are some stem cells. :)

Vampirism (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27635953)

I realize this is likely to get modded -1 Troll in about 4 seconds, but I feel like I need to write it anyway.

I just don't see how taking the life of an embryo so that the older or sick can keep on living is anything other than vampirisim (in a loose sense of the word, or course).

And don't bother dismissing me as a religious nutjob. I'm certainly not the former, and probably not the latter.

Re:Vampirism (1, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635969)

Most of the medical profession believes that adult stem cells are more likely to offer cures than embryonic stem cells, so your complaint will prove a non-issue.

Re:Vampirism (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636325)

Hi. Medical professional here. Do you have a source? Because that's not my thinking, or the thinking of most others I've discussed the issue with.

Re:Vampirism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636429)

Hi. Medical professional here. You don't speak for us.

Re:Vampirism (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636775)

Both posts are conveniently made under AC, I dunno who to believe :P

Re:Vampirism (1)

bargainsale (1038112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637003)

I'm a different medical professional, and neither of them speaks for me.
HTH

Re:Vampirism (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637051)

I know you wanted to sound cool and confuse me even more but I was sorta just joking. Anyway, it worked, now I think I should try to experiment on my own or something and find the truth :P

Re:Vampirism (2, Funny)

neonmonk (467567) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637243)

Hi Medical Professional here, you may recognise me from such medical products as "Your First Colonoscopy" and the award winning "Bilateral Orchiectomy."

Re:Vampirism (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27637335)

I'm not a medical professional. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express [hiexpress.com] last night!

Re:Vampirism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636517)

Much smarter people than you talk about the stem cell issues here: Adult Stem Cell Lies: Everything Old is New Again [scienceblogs.com]

Basically the conclusion is this: more study is needed before there can be an objective conclusion. What the professionals believe is not a good arbiter of what will actually happen. Just look at all the treatments believed by medical professionals to be effective over the years, like leeches, blood draining, etc.

Re:Vampirism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27637157)

What the professionals believe got a lot of people killed over the years. It used to be that mainstream medical opinion that washing one's hands [wikipedia.org] was of limited to no use in preventing disease.

Re:Vampirism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27637389)

Come on, you guys are talking ancient history. Those examples are from before medical treatments were evaluated systematically through scientific studies, and when there was no germ theory of disease.

If you think that lesson has anything to do with modern evidence-based medicine, you've lost your marbles.

Re:Vampirism (0, Troll)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637351)

> Most of the medical profession believes that adult stem cells are more likely to offer cures than embryonic stem cells

Because this article is just a troll for more funding and to give Obama's recent stem cell ruling credibility. Sorry guys, truth time. Who in their right mind is going to want to take drugs the rest of their life to stop the body from rejecting the implant? Those drugs can be wicked. That is why this procedure isn't going anywhere until they find a way to do it with the patient's own cells as source material.

I know some on the left get erect at the thought of embryonic stem cells, probably because it involves dead babies[1], but it's a dead end. A small amount of good might come from it in cases like this were early research can go ahead while other teams work out the rest of the details on adult stem cells but that is the extent of it.

[1] From observing that most on the 'left' favor extreme environmentalism including wiping out a good 90% of the human population, get off on abortion, infanticide and euthanasia (volunteer and forced) it's pretty obvious they hate themselves and by extension their entire species.

And yes kids, THIS is how one does a troll. Pure Truth, yet presented in the most inflamatory way possible, is the surest way to drive folks into a blind rage.

Re:Vampirism (2, Insightful)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638649)

And yes kids, THIS is how one does a troll. Pure Truth, yet presented in the most inflamatory way possible, is the surest way to drive folks into a blind rage.

Perhaps; perhaps. Perhaps you are correct.

However, and this is an important however: your post is not going to receive funding. The research discussed in the article, however trollish, likely will. So, I've learned something from your post, even if it wasn't directly what you were conveying. :)

Re:Vampirism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27641181)

[1] From observing that most on the 'left' favor extreme environmentalism including wiping out a good 90% of the human population, get off on abortion, infanticide and euthanasia (volunteer and forced) it's pretty obvious they hate themselves and by extension their entire species.

Oh, yeah! yeah!! Jacking off to "Aborted Fetuses Gone Wild!!" Oh yeah, baby!!!! Hey jmorris42, whydoncha bring over one of those huge aborted fetus posters like you carry at the anti-abortion rallies? And grab a bottle of JD and your crack pipe, too!

And, I'm betting on Earth First against The FBI in the season opener!

The problem with conservabots is they can no longer separate their slimy rhetoric from truth.

Right behind a successful conservative move to control women's bodies for pregnancy and birth, there'll be liberal move to control men's dicks. And conservatives will scream... what, you didn't think what you were doing was controlling women's bodies?

Re:Vampirism (1, Troll)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636135)

There are far fewer cells in these embryos than there are in the typical snot you pull out of your nose. I don't think they really need to be mourned. You've lost far more living human cells picking a scab.

Re:Vampirism (1, Flamebait)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636567)

To the mod who modded me offtopic, how is discussion of stem cells off topic in an article on stem cells?

Fucking coward, if you don't like what I'm saying at least have the balls to mod correctly or respond via comment.

Re:Vampirism (2, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636167)

So if you had a choice between saving a vat of frozen embryos from a fire or a single person of any age, you would pick the embryos? How about if the single person was your child; would you still pick the vat of embryos?

By the way, for all the folks who are against using stem cells to cure disease, feel free to go blind while the rest of us enjoy our vision. As someone who has a genetic predisposition towards getting MD when I get older, I am more than happy to sacrifice a few bundles of cells that were going to be tossed into the trash anyway to keep my vision when I am older.

Re:Vampirism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636361)

So if you had a choice between saving a vat of frozen embryos from a fire or a single person of any age, you would pick the embryos? How about if the single person was your child; would you still pick the vat of embryos?

Indeed. In this thought experiment of yours, how did the vat get full of frozen embryos, I wonder?

Re:Vampirism (1)

General Wesc (59919) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636393)

So if you had a choice between saving a vat of frozen embryos from a fire or a single person of any age, you would pick the embryos? How about if the single person was your child; would you still pick the vat of embryos?

This isn't a choice between saving one or saving the other. It's killing one to save the other vs. not killing one, leaving the other to die. The vast majority of people consider killing very different from not saving.

(I, however, would kill the embryo. No mind (no mental activity) = no moral significance, as far as I'm concerned.)

Re:Vampirism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27638267)

Good point. Here's a better scenario:

Your small plane ditches in the ocean. You manage to drag one other person (who is unconscious) to the life raft, along with a vat of frozen embryos. You are the only one capable of navigating the raft back to civilization. Unfortunately, the raft can't support the weight of both people plus the vat, so one of them must be left behind. You must physically throw one of them overboard and watch them sink, or else the raft will sink and everyone perishes.

In this scenario, you have to either kill all embryos to save one person, kill the person to save all embryos, or have everyone die as a result of your inaction.

The Real Problem (2, Interesting)

sycodon (149926) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638239)

So let's say they come up with a cure for something, anything, using embryonic stem cells.

The next logical step is to produce this cure in production quantities. How long until the supply of embryos in storage from artificial insemination attempts, etc. are exhausted?

What then? The only option is pay men and women for their sperm and eggs so that they can produce the embryos from which to harvest the stem cells. I understand that extracting eggs is an expensive and painful process. Of course, give a guy a Hustler and he's good to go.

So in order to commercialize the cure, even in limited quantities, you essentially have to set up embryo factories.

If that does not give you pause, then there is something wrong with you.

Re:The Real Problem (0, Offtopic)

hajus (990255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639007)

This is a strawman.

Re:The Real Problem (0, Offtopic)

sycodon (149926) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639363)

This is not a Straw Man.

There. I responded with the same substance as you.

Re:The Real Problem (0, Troll)

omb (759389) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639545)

NO you dont,

Please read my original comment about paying attention in school, the point is simply that lots of different embryos give you lots of different genes, which is what you need to screen for cause.

Once you have found the right gene you can prevent the cell from differentiating and mass produce in vitro.

A case of a nail, 2 4 8 ... you have what you need, so long as you dont loose the cell line but micro-bioligists understand that.

This is precisely what I meant about truely dumb-ass comments from lack of education, even if you need a human cell at all, since often it is easier to gene splice into another organism that is easier and quicker to grow.

The detail depends on what you are trying to do. Eg type 1 diabetes is often caused by destruction, by disease of the necessary cells, you want to replace those cells, same nerve damage; type 2 diabetes have the working cells, but faulty biochemistry and may need a drug not new cells, or a vectored gene implant, in either case you wont use whole cells, and the stem cell may not be used at all once the _process_ is understood.

The real problem is that the US has fostered the notion that any opinion, no matter how stupid, and especially if religiously based must be given a balanced hearing. Dumb is dumb! Corrupt is corrupt!

Pandering to 'your base' on cable is dishonest, and no way to build a successful society. You need to re-learn that quick and run your creationalists, intelligent-d-twats, and most TV pastors out on the rail. Else, in free fall you are soon a third world country.

Re:The Real Problem (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 5 years ago | (#27640909)

Just how many embryos do you think you will need to go through to find what you think you need?

Research in this manner is not much different than producing the remedy. Look at the mass produced lines of mice that have this or that particular genetic feature. Finding the cure is a mass production effort in and of itself.

And I bet you would have felt right at home in other "successful" societies where science and reason were the primary influences. Umm...can you tell me which one that was again?

Re:Vampirism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636549)

And don't bother dismissing me as a religious nutjob. I'm certainly not the former, and probably not the latter.

Too late, you've already slipped it in, with, "how taking the life of an embryo...is anything other than [vampirism]..." Plus, you already posted as AC, so apparently you won't stand behind your word, your belief?

The question, really, is how religious nutjobs decided that they have jurisdiction over women's bodies. Maybe it's time to go back to Biblical times, women are property?

Re:Vampirism (5, Insightful)

Kiuas (1084567) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637093)

I just don't see how taking the life of an embryo so that the older or sick can keep on living is anything other than vampirisim (in a loose sense of the word, or course).

Erm, someone correct me if I'm wrong but hasn't this been discussed time and time again. Embryos for stem cell research are not bred just for the purpose of being "killed". The cells, at least acording to what I've heard/read (again, prove me wrong if you know any better, I'm not a professional) are taken from embryos that were fertilized for the purposes of fertility treatment/artificial impregantion. During those treatments multiple embryos are fertilized and some of them are the discared. The stem cells are extracted from discarded embryos. This means that the embryos would "die" anyway and at least this way they're being used for something beneficial.

Moreover, I don't understand the problem at all. Embryos aren't humans. They are clusters of cells. They are by no means sentient or intelligent. So what's the whole deal about "vapirism"? People donate blood and organs all the time - this is not so far from it. Bottom line is: The embryo is alive in the sense all cells are alive but it has no "life" to be taken away. If you seriously think that way I suggest you stop eating any food because by eating vegetables you're basically taking the life of another organism so that you can live and according to you, that's "vampirism".

Re:Vampirism (2, Insightful)

Badge 17 (613974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638479)

I think part of the worry comes from a mistaken belief that each treatment will mean the destruction of an embryo - hence the "vampirism" fear. Maybe I'm wrong in this, but the treatment comes from a stem cell line [wikipedia.org] - i.e. once upon a time there was an embryo, and now it's billions and billions of constantly growing individual stem cells. Objecting to stem cell *treatments* because of embryos being destroyed is like a vegan refusing to be treated by a doctor who once ate meat ten years ago.

Re:Vampirism (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27640865)

The cells, at least acording to what I've heard/read (again, prove me wrong if you know any better, I'm not a professional) are taken from embryos that were fertilized for the purposes of fertility treatment/artificial impregantion.

Correct, and fears that we'll start encouraging abortions to get stem cells are also absurd: by the time a woman knows she is pregnant, "embryonic stem cells" as in completely undifferentiated cells good for replacing any organ, are not found in the fetus. ESC useful for that are only found within a window of 3-5 days after fertilization, before the embryo has implanted into the uterine wall and before a blood test would even indicate a woman is pregnant.

Re:Vampirism (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637473)

I just don't see how taking the life of an embryo so that the older or sick can keep on living is anything other than vampirisim (in a loose sense of the word, or course).

It's just yuck factor, you'll get over it. It comes with a lot of new medical advances. When the first live organ transplants were done people thought of Dr Frankenstein and Igor cackling over the patchwork man on the slab. Blood transfusion similarly met with superstitious opposition, which survives in some sects to this day. And going back further, you should take a look at some of the cartoons commenting on the first vaccinations. People move on pretty quickly once they see the benefits.

Re:Vampirism (1)

maraist (68387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639847)

I don't think it's fair to list you as a flaimbit - it was a legitimate question.

My response (and probably echoing hundreds of others) - there is no death involved.. The stem cell, on the contrary, is being given a chance to live on as a new replicating mass organ. I would imagine if the cell could experience thought - it would be thanking us for saving us from the bowels of the toilet.. Which is where ALLLLLLLL stems cells go when their host mother has their period.

Still a long way to go... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27635967)

IAAO (I am an Ophthalmologist).

Although the article does not mention what kind of cells and membranes are transplanted and wether it is going to be used in exsudative or non-exsudative AMD I would assume that it's retinal Pigment Epithelium and Bruch's Membrane being used in wet (= exsudative) AMD.
Therefore this seems to involve subretinal surgery, which is not a piece of cake and usually diminishes visual accuity.
Previous attempts in this direction have already been done (macular rotation, retinal pigment epithelium transplants, etc.), results have not been all too gratifying.

Re:Still a long way to go... (3, Insightful)

defile39 (592628) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635999)

I (and I'm sure many others) will gladly take a little loss of visual acuity over a lot of blindness. You have to admit that, if this works, it will be a revolutionary improvement over rotation or general transplants. Of course, that's still a big if.

Re:Still a long way to go... (3, Informative)

spineboy (22918) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636109)

IANAO IAAO (I am not an Opthomologist, I am an Orthopaedist)

Anyway, I think the GP is suggesting that it's not just a little loss of visual acuity, but a lot, a whole lot. Maybe even enough to make it not worthwhile.
If I recall correctly, the retina is kinda made backwards - the nerves are on top of the retinal layer. So one has to peel back the nerves to work on the layer underneath. I can't imagine that individual nerves like this at all.

Re:Still a long way to go... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636263)

Why are you abbreviating and then writing out the abbreviation? Doesn't that kind of negate the point of an abbreviation?

Re:Still a long way to go... (4, Funny)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636719)

Why are you abbreviating and then writing out the abbreviation? Doesn't that kind of negate the point of an abbreviation?

Most people on the Tubes would have saved themselves a lot of time by just writing the commonly-used abbreviation, "WAYAATWOTA? DTKONTPOAA?"

Re:Still a long way to go... (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638595)

Okay, a little scary, here's what I heard: "why are you always attempting to write out the acronyms?" Then it fell down...

And, LOL, when I searched for both "acronym WAYAATWOTA" and "acronym DTKONTPOAA", the only search result returned was to the parent comment. :)

Re:Still a long way to go... (1)

the grace of R'hllor (530051) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638779)

YKYBRTMSWYCRAWHTSTO

For those who haven't been reading enough Slashdot:
You know you've been reading too much Slashdot when you can read abbreviations without having to spell them out

Re:Still a long way to go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636327)

Anyway, I think the GP is suggesting that it's not just a little loss of visual acuity, but a lot, a whole lot.

What part of BLINDNESS, which has zero visual acuity, do you not understand?

Re:Still a long way to go... (4, Informative)

bargainsale (1038112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636743)

No, that's incorrect.

"Blindness" is being used in this context in a technical but generally accepted sense to mean vision so poor that you can't see the top letter on the eye chart with either eye. That's a grim state to be in, but most people who are "legally blind" like this are far from having no vision at all.

In particular, Macular Degeneration hardly ever leads to the total blindness you are referring to.

That doesn't mean it isn't a horrible crippling condition of course.

Re:Still a long way to go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639371)

I'm the original AC and all I can say is wow, thank you. Learn something new every day.

Re:Still a long way to go... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636737)

IAAO IANAO (I am an Ophtalmologist, I am not an Orthopedist).

You are correct. However, the structure affected in AMD is not directly the retina but Bruch's Membrane and the retinal pigment epithelium which both separate the retina from the underlying chorioid. (Vessels and subsequent retinal edema due to neovascularisation from the underlying chorioid to the retina is what is what is making exsudative AMD wet).
In any way in order to place something between the chorioid and the retina you have to get past the retina (which is nerve tissue and does not like a lot of manipulation).

Currently subretinal surgery for wet AMD is only exceptionally done, since it is technically challenging and results are very varying.
Current treatment for wet AMD is either anti-VEGF Injections (Macugen,Lucentis,Avastin) to drive back the Vessels or PDT (photodynamic therapy = central retinal laser treatment after injecting Visudyne) to coagulate the vessels selectively.

There currently is no treatment for dry AMD, however it progresses relatively slowly (years).
If this were a treatment for dry AMD it would be something novel, however I would assume that it involves subretinal surgery which will carry in itself significant risk for further visual loss.

So it might be something novel, but probably not a definitive and easy cure.

Re:Still a long way to go... (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636885)

I assume, then that since MD affects a sublayer under the retina, and not the actual retina itself, that this carries little hope for affecting retinitus pigmentosa?

I ask because my father has RP, and I'm curious as to whether to send this article to my Mom or not...

Re:Still a long way to go... (1)

bargainsale (1038112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636839)

You remember right about the retina being "inside out". However ...

There's actually a potential space between the photoreceptors (rods and cones)and the outermost layer of the retina, the pigment epithelium. This is the level at which the retina comes loose in retinal detachment.

The way you do this is not to get between the photoreceptors and the nerve fibre layer (which would cause total loss of vision in that part of the retina) but between the photoreceptors and the pigment epithelium, essentially by making a limited retinal detachment on purpose.

This is major league eye surgery (very much more so than a cataract operation, for example) which could only be carried out by a highly trained subspecialist in retinal surgery (this is one of the ways in which the publicity handout from Moorfields is pretty misleading).

If this technique proves valuable when it finally gets trialled (and that's by no means inevitable - there have been a great many false hopes over the years in treating this miserable disease) actually getting the treatment for everbody who needs it will be a huge logistical problem. This is a disease which eventually affects every third person in Western countries.

Re:Still a long way to go... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27637071)

IANAO IAAO (I am not an Opthomologist, I am an Orthopaedist)

EIEIO (I am a farmer)

Re:Still a long way to go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27637321)

EIEIO (I am a farmer)

LOL! You are also awesome!

BTW !EIEIO (I am not a farmer).

Re:Still a long way to go... (2, Funny)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638317)

Plus, I could enjoy religious nutjobs shouting "You put baby foetus in your eyes !" at me...

Re:Still a long way to go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636497)

YAAD, You Are A Douche.

Re:Still a long way to go... (1)

tkjtkj (577219) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636575)

did the article not state that its seen to be a one-hour outpatient procedure? your comment seems not appropriate, if we are to believe the report, and we have no reason to doubt it.

Re:Still a long way to go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636833)

...if we are to believe the report, and we have no reason to doubt it.

Yes, because everything we read on the internets is true. And researchers would _never_ overstate their work in order to increase the chances of receiving funding.

So there!

Re:Still a long way to go... (4, Informative)

bargainsale (1038112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636597)

IAAO too ...

This is, I think, stem cell implantation subretinally for Geographic Atrophy, a.k.a "dry" macular degeneration. Potentially a big deal inasmuch as currently we have no treatment for this at all and it accounts for 90% of all macular degeneration.

It involves major invasive surgery: "outpatient procedure" gives a highly misleading idea of what's involved. It doesn't mean any more than that you could get away with not admitting the patient to hospital, not that you could ever do it anywhere except in an operating theatre.

Moorfields have lately developed a very bad habit of prematurely and misleadingly announcing "breakthroughs" in eye treatment, which I suspect is related to their own funding issues (they did this not long ago with some extremely misleading publicity about three patients with Leber's Amaurorosis they'd treated with gene therapy, not one of whom in fact showed measurable objective improvement in vision - not the impression the news reports tried to give.)

Peng Khaw BTW is not a retinal expert (though Lyndon da Cruz certainly is; he was also involved in the publicity about the gene therapy, interestingly.)

I'm sorry to say that I think this is the Moorfields spin machine in action.

Re:Still a long way to go... (4, Informative)

ParadoxDruid (602583) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637399)

I recently met Pete Coffey, the lead scientist on this effort (he collaborates with scientists in a research group across the hall from mine), and attended his technical talk on this procedure. You are correct, they're transplanting retinal pigment epithelium. However, they've done experiments with both wet AMD and some preliminary work with reviving dry AMD. Very promising work; but yes, very involved surgery with a success rate of 75% even for ideal patients.

Re:Still a long way to go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27637455)

I had a lecture from Pete Coffey a few weeks ago - he wasn't trying to sell the technique to us, we were Developmental Biology students learning about the finer points of the stem cells used.
They have got the technique down to under an hour, actually closer to 40 minutes, meaning it can be a local anaesthetic procedure. Any old retinal surgeon can do it, there's no need to be "a highly trained subspecialist".
There's also a chance that it might be a help to wet AMD patients as well, if used in conjunction with Lucentis (anti-angiogenic) injections, though the results probably wouldn't be so dramatic.
The phase one trials to check safety and efficacy are going to be done on ten patients with acute retinal tears, and also ten patients with wet AMD for whom Lucentis doesn't work. I can't see any reason to be negative about this. I realise that many new techniques do get spun out of proportion, but this has been being developed and tested for so long already, it is looking very good indeed.
Also, for those morally challenged people who have a problem with using stem cells, it might be interesting to note that to treat 14 million patients would only require cells from three embryos.

Wow, thank god for that (5, Interesting)

physburn (1095481) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636013)

So pleased at the news, losing my eyes, is my number one fear, no eyes = no computers games, no programming, and no porn. Blindness would be sure hell.

Reading the article, is hardly ready for use, so far only tested on rats and pigs. There'll be many years of trials before its ready for use on people. Plus Stem cells have be known to turn cancerous, cancer of the retina, would be quickly fatal, there so close to the brain.

Stem cells have tremendous potential to cure disease and even to reverse the aging process. The next twenty years of research might total change the sad process of aging in human.

Stem cells [feeddistiller.com] feed at Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:Wow, thank god for that (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636053)

Eh, don't get too hung up on it. I'm legally blind and have no trouble with coding, video games, and especially porn. Could be the porn that got me into this mess in the first place (mom always said I'd go blind), but whatever.

Re:Wow, thank god for that (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637659)

The next twenty years of research might total change the sad process of aging in human.

And just in time, too, from my POV. I'm 59 right now, so there's a good chance (if you're right) for those new treatments to come in right on time for me to take advantage of them.

Stem cells (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636019)

Are the answer to most any illness that doesn't have a hard genetic base to it. ( since the 'new' cells will eventually take on the same old genetic deficiency )

Re:Stem cells (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636197)

Are the answer to most any illness that doesn't have a hard genetic base to it. ( since the 'new' cells will eventually take on the same old genetic deficiency )

And when they do, we can just harvest another poor soul to reproduce new ones. I can't wait to get my own Lincoln Six Echo for my personal benefit.

Soul? GTFO. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636837)

Soul?
Wrong website there, buddy.

Re:Stem cells (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636341)

Unless you patch wrong genes in the stem cells before the transplantation.

oblig... (1)

nih (411096) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636077)

i'm blind, but i can see! oops, nearly fell in that hole in the ground!

A treatment to get rid of AMD? (5, Funny)

name*censored* (884880) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636085)

"On hearing the announcement that researchers have found a cure for AMD, a spokesman for computing giant Intel said 'It's about bloody time.'".
 
/ducks

Masturbation? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636117)

Finally! Now, can someone do something about the hair on my palms?

Re:Masturbation? (1)

Meumeu (848638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636669)

Finally! Now, can someone do something about the hair on my palms?

Yes. [shaveeverywhere.com]

The Most Common Cause of Blindness (4, Funny)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636229)

Someone tag this !porn because I was seriously confused for a minute.

Re:The Most Common Cause of Blindness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636451)

I only clicked on the link in a hope to read it cures hairy palms as well

Lecture by Dr. Bill Deagle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636371)

Lecture [google.com] by Dr. Bill Deagle, discussing many things including health industry. After you're done with the lecture, here's a more recent interview [youtube.com] of Dr. Bill Deagle by the people behind Project Camelot [projectcamelot.org] ...enjoy ;)

There are politics to this (1, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636529)

And I think that anyone who is opposed to embryonic stem cell research should not be allowed to have this treatment, should they need it and testing proves it successful.

Let them go blind.

RS

Re:There are politics to this (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637253)

And I think that anyone who is opposed to embryonic stem cell research should not be allowed to have this treatment, should they need it and testing proves it successful.
Let them go blind.

What makes you think they would want it? There ARE people out there that have values they actually believe in.

Re:There are politics to this (3, Interesting)

TomHandy (578620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637375)

In all seriousness, it will cause an interesting moral choice for those people then. As you said, there are people who genuinely hold those values, but I don't think it would be such an easy cut and dry decision for some of them if it could mean something like restoring sight. Or, say, even if not for them, but if the sight of one of their children could be restored. Not saying everyone would give in, but it would not always be an easy choice. Not to put it on the same level, but it's like how many people have an objection on paper to something like abortion, but when actually confronted with it, they don't always act based on their objections.

Re:There are politics to this (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638337)

I agree with you, and I think the abortion comparison is apt. To put it another way, there are a lot of people out there that are anti-abortion and have kids they probably didn't want.

The difference between those who mouth adherence to values and those who practice what they preach!

Can't they just wait it out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639761)

I have to think that, assuming this research is actually promising (rather than a cynical ploy for more funding as the opthamologists above seem to fear), there will soon be a version of it using adult stem cells that's a lot safer. I mean, who wants the possibility of some horrible tumor with teeth and hair [wikipedia.org] inside your eye!?

Or is there some reason this can only be done with fetal stem cells? Everything I've read says that fetal stem cells are easier to do research on, while adult stem cells offer superior treatments, though I admit that's a somewhat simplistic way of putting things.

Still, I'd much rather go blind than accept the chance that my eyeballs will grow teeth. Teratomas are enough to give you nightmares.

Re:There are politics to this (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637447)

And I think that anyone who is opposed to embryonic stem cell research should not be allowed to have this treatment, should they need it and testing proves it successful.

So if you're opposed to the manner in which the research was done, you shouldn't be allowed to benefit from the resulting medical treatment? Interesting. Well, I hope that if you're ever rescued from some mountainside with severe frostbite and hypothermia, you won't mind being allowed to die. Because an awful lot of our knowledge of how the human body responds to extreme cold originates from research done by the German military, the better to treat their casualties on the Eastern front. I'll give you one guess where they got their research subjects.

Re:There are politics to this (0, Flamebait)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637525)

So if you're opposed to the manner in which the research was done, you shouldn't be allowed to benefit from the resulting medical treatment? Interesting. Well, I hope that if you're ever rescued from some mountainside with severe frostbite and hypothermia, you won't mind being allowed to die.

Because an awful lot of our knowledge of how the human body responds to extreme cold originates from research done by the German military, the better to treat their casualties on the Eastern front. I'll give you one guess where they got their research subjects.

what you wrote is completely incoherent and bass ackwards presumptuous. I have no problem with where knowledge is produced. we learned a lot about knives from hacking each other up. doesn't mean I'm going to cut my veggies with a spoon...

So what the fuck is your point? Mine is simple: if you don't like how something is made, then don't use it.

People who decry stem cell research should not be permitted the benefits of the research. What I wrote was OBVIOUS blowback from the anti-stem cell position. That I've been rated flamebait goes to show the disposition of the mod, not my point.

RS

Re:There are politics to this (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637557)

So what the fuck is your point? Mine is simple: if you don't like how something is made, then don't use it. People who decry stem cell research should not be permitted the benefits of the research.

Ah, I apologise. I assumed you would object to the medical experimentation on prisoners in death camps during the war. If you do not object to such experimentation, then certainly you can enjoy the benefits thereof with a clear conscience. If you did object to a fascist regime deliberately freezing members of minority groups to see how it damaged them, then by your own argument you should not be allowed to benefit from the resulting treatments: but clearly you don't. My mistake.

Personally, I object vehemently to such experimentation, but would still gladly accept its benefits should I ever be found half-frozen somewhere. Therefore I find I cannot in good conscience tell those who object to experimentation on embryos or animals that they should refuse the resulting treatments, when I would not refuse treatments that derive from Holocaust experiments.

The leading cause of blindness (1)

revjtanton (1179893) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636693)

So stem cells have cured masturbation related blindness? That's awesome!

And the first thing you'll see... (2, Funny)

TomHandy (578620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637361)

When your vision is restored is the baby jesus crying.

Obligatory (2, Funny)

Godji (957148) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637421)

...stem cell therapy that can treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD)...

A spokesman for Intel expressed great interest in the technology:

"AMD has been a problem we've tried to combat for years, but until now, no matter how much we tried to suppress it, it always managed to survive. Not anymore."

NVIDIA declined to comment on this news story.

Religous FUD (2, Interesting)

omb (759389) | more than 5 years ago | (#27639153)

I continue to be appalled by the bigoted and histrionic comments of religious Americans who do not seem to understand that not even all Christians agree with them let alone the rest of us, and then Squabble endlessly over exactly what Bush's disastrous decision in Health was, again never mind his contributions to Foreign Affairs or the Economy. He set health research back eight years while presiding over un-necessary wars and the de-regulation of the financial system which has resulted in the greatest depression in four generations and the rise of more crooks, fraudsters and scam agents to shake a stick at.

For the record I, and most outside the US, do not care whether the stem cells are embryonic or not, so long as the medics have the genetic material, and that means diversity of genes, to search for cure to debiliting illnesses especially as there is a surplus of fetuses for other reasons.

Restoring pluri-potence to the patients own cells may well be desirable but is not essential as various gene splicing and gene injection techniques generate neither cancer or rejection as some comments, clearly FUD from the US rabid right suggested.

What is clearly necessary is better scientific education and that is better done by paying attention in school rather than church.

Thank goodness Obama at least sounds rational.

Warning (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#27640267)

Do not look directly at the shark-mounted laser without suitable eye protection.
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