A revolutionary stem cell treatment developed by British scientists could restore sight in the blind. The transplants could transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of Britons who have lost their sight.
Among those who could benefit are sufferers of macular degeneration - the most common cause of blindness in the elderly - and those who have lost their sight as a complication of diabetes. Eye surgeon Dr Robert MacLaren said there are 300,000 people with macular degeneration and the number is going to treble in the next 25 years as people get older.
The researchers, from University College London and London's Moorfields Eye Hospital, used stem cells - blank cells with the power to turn into different types of cells - to restore the vision in blind mice.
The cells were injected into the back of the eye where they replaced damaged photoreceptors - tiny light-sensitive cells found in the retina and key to vision.
While stem cells are often obtained from embryos in the first days of life, it is thought the patient's own eye could hold a bank of cells suitable for transplant.
Using the patient's own cells would also avoid the possibility of 'foreign' cells being rejected by the body.
However the scientists caution that the technique is still in its infancy. However, they are hopeful of the first human photoreceptor transplants taking place within ten years.