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Breakthrough in stem cell treatment for macular degeneration

Partner story

Photo: © Moorfields Charity

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of sight loss for people aged 50 and older. There are two types of AMD, wet and dry [1], which can lead to the loss of central vision. This can interfere with people’s everyday activities, affecting the ability to see faces clearly, read, write and drive [2].

Two patients from the United Kingdom with severe cases of wet AMD became the first to receive a new treatment using stem cells, as part of a ground-breaking clinical study conducted by the London Project to Cure Blindness at the Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The patients were monitored for a year and reported improvements in their vision. They went from not being able to read at all, to reading 60-80 words per minute with reading glasses.

Douglas Waters, 86, from Croydon, London, was one of the people who received the treatment at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He says:

“In the months before the operation, my sight was really poor and I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye. I was struggling to see things clearly, even when up-close. After the surgery my eyesight improved to the point where I can now read the newspaper and help my wife out with the gardening. It’s brilliant what the team have done and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back.”

Professor Lyndon da Cruz on his work to cure macular degeneration.

On the success of the trial treatment, Professor Lyndon da Cruz, consultant retinal surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“The results suggest that this new therapeutic approach is safe and provides good visual outcomes. The patients who received the treatment had very severe AMD, and their improved vision will go some way towards enhancing their quality of life. We recognise that this is a small group of patients, but we hope that what we have learned from this study will benefit many more in the future.”

The London Project to Cure Blindness is working to use stem cell therapy to treat retinal diseases, especially for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The programme is a partnership project between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and the National Institute for Health Research. It is hoped that this breakthrough in treating wet AMD will open the door to finding a treatment for dry AMD as well.

The Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is a world-leading provider of eye-care services in the UK, caring for patients in over 30 locations in the London area. An Oak partner, the Trust receives a grant through our Special Interest Programme, which covers a range of fields including health, humanitarian relief, education and the arts. The Programme reflects the interests of Oak’s Trustees in making dynamic, diverse, large and innovative grants. Learn more about the work of Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust here.

[1] The London Project to Cure Blindness, Latest News,

[2] National Eye Institute, Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration,

Source: Oak Foundation Annual Report 2017