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UK scientists set their sights on cure for AMD

A groundbreaking surgical therapy capable of stabilising and restoring vision in the vast majority of patients who currently suffer blindness through Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is to be taken to clinical trial by scientists and clinicians at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Moorfields Eye Hospital and the University of Sheffield. The therapy, using cells derived from human embryonic stem cells to replace the faulty retinal cells that cause AMD, will be developed by the London Project to Cure AMD, a collaborative project launched today bringing together some of the leading specialists in the field.

Around 25 per cent of over-60s in the UK have some degree of visual loss due to AMD, and some 14 million people in Europe currently suffer blindness through the condition, caused by defects in the retinal support cells. There is currently no treatment that prevents the treatment of dry AMD. There has been some success in controlling new blood vessel formation in wet AMD, but these approaches are only suitable for certain patients and are often only temporary.

Thanks to a 4 million donation from a US private donor, the London Project will now be able to assemble the necessary spectrum of scientists and clinicians, led by the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, to accelerate the techniques move from laboratory to clinic. The Project is open access and will be made completely available to scientists, clinicians and all those with an interest worldwide.

AMD is associated with defects of the retinal support cells the retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE). The rods and cones (the photoreceptors) in the retina, which are the light sensitive cells, depend for their survival on the normal functioning of these cells, and so failure of these cells leads to progressive loss of vision. In addition, the disease often provokes a scarring process at the back of the eye leading to the formation of new blood vessels within the retina which subs
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Contact: Dominique Fourniol
d.fourniol@ucl.ac.uk
020-767-99726
University College London
5-Jun-2007


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