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First Stem Cell Treatment for Age-Related Blindness a Success

Dramatic advances have been made in stem cell treatment which are allowing us to live longer and more healthily. However medical practitioners, and specifically those charged with the care of elderly people, have long known that developments in areas such as cardiology and oncology have not been matched by similar progress in the treatment of age-related eye disorders.

As a result, there are significant numbers of older people with compromised vision who enjoy otherwise excellent health.

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Stem Cell Treatment – Major New Development

A groundbreaking stem cell treatment has been developed in London, however, which has the potential radically to change the prognosis for individuals suffering from age-related macular degeneration. This is a serious disorder which is believed to affect the vision of hundreds of thousands of elderly people throughout the United Kingdom, many of whom live in residential care homes.

In late September 2015, at Moorfields Eye Hospital, a female patient underwent a short procedure which involved the transplant into the area behind the retina of a patch of eye cells (retinal pigment epithelium) grown in a laboratory from embryonic stem cells. The operation was successful, and doctors will know by December whether she has regained her sight.

The stem cell treatment was developed as part of the London Project to Cure Blindness, a collaboration involving Moorfields Hospital, University College London and the National Institute for Health Research. It is currently for the treatment of the rarer and more serious “wet” macular degeneration. Doctors involved with the project, however, say that it has the potential to evolve into a treatment for “dry” macular degeneration and other age-related eye disorders.

Potential to Change Lives

It will be some time before the procedure filters into wide general use. There will be various scientific trials, safety assessments and, of course, a thorough cost-benefit analysis by public health agencies before a decision is made about its use in the UK. Notwithstanding this note of caution, there are grounds for great optimism that sooner rather than later the scourge of age-related eye disease will be consigned to history, and elderly people will be able to enjoy the excellent visual health which is so central to enjoyment of life.

In the meantime, families and others, such as residential care homes, who are tasked with caring for elderly people can take certain steps to ensure their general health and happiness. For example, research has unequivocally shown that older people who have regular structured contact with younger generations enjoy longer, healthier lives. Incorporating multi-generational activities into the lives of elderly people should be part of any care plan.

There are some outstanding examples of care homes which intelligently, thoughtfully and sensitively design holistic programmes to provide elderly people with the diet, exercise and mental stimulation they need for health and happiness. Balcombe Care Homes, for example, is a chain of outstanding care homes in the South East of England. They provide delicious and wholesome meals to ensure their guests enjoy the most balanced of diets, and their range of fitness and health services is outstanding, with traditional and more avant garde techniques being represented. They also deliver an excellent range of social activities, cultural pursuits and outings in order that residents are not only fulfilled but are as healthy in mind as they are in body.

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