Fetal Eye Cells Improve Sight Of Legally Blind

Transplanted fetal eye cells have partially restored the vision of four legally blind patients, an eye researcher reports. The patients suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, one of the major causes of blindness in adults.

Of the eight patients who have received the transplantations over the last 18 months, four have experienced somewhat improved sight, although they remain legally blind, said Dr. Manuel del Cerro of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

In a presentation at the national meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, del Cerro said the transplantation procedure is “highly experimental” and does not reverse the inherited tendency to develop retinitis pigmentosa.

Dr. Gerald J. Chader, an eye researcher who recently left the National Institutes of Health to join the Foundation Fighting Blindness, said Monday he was “guardedly optimistic” about del Cerro’s findings.

“This has not been published or peer reviewed,” said Chader. “I would like to see it in publication.”

But Chader said a presentation by del Cerro to doctors at NIH earlier this year was well-received, and the researcher has a good reputation.

“But the proof of this procedure will be whether or not the improvement lasts,” Chader said.

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