Scientists have used stem cell technology to improve the eyesight of two women who were deemed officially blind.
Both women, who suffer from different forms of macular degeneration, had their eyes injected with stem cells from embryos as part of a US safety trial.
Macular degeneration affects around 500,000 people in Britain.
Macular degeneration is caused by the death of RPE cells in the retina, and subsequent loss of light receptive rod and cone cells beneath them.
The new RPE cells, developed by US stem cell company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), will help repopulate the epithelial layer and improve the health of the underlying rods and cones.
Each woman had a single eye injected with about 50,000 of these RPE cells that had been derived from embryonic stem cells.
The first woman went from being able to read 21 letters on a sight test to 28, and the second woman went from only being able to detect hand movements to seeing finger movements and better.
According to the study, published in The Lancet, after four months scientists found no safety concerns with the two patients.
At the same time, a British man became the first European to be treated with the RPE cells at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London in a parallel trial.
He said it was too early for there to have been any effect, but he would be returning to the hospital in March for an assessment.
Professor Daniel Brison, of the North West Embryonic Stem Cell Centre in Manchester, said: “This is a very exciting moment for embryonic stem cell therapies.
“This is the first peer-reviewed scientific report showing that cells derived from human embryonic stem cells can be transplanted safely into a patient with no sign of complications.”
"Although the study is limited to safety considerations, very small in scope, and at a very early stage, this is nonetheless a ground breaking moment for embryonic stem cell therapies."
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