“No matter how much one prepares, the first patient is always something very special.” That’s how Dr. Mark Humayun describes his feelings as he prepared to deliver a CIRM-funded stem cell therapy to help someone going blind from dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Humayun, an ophthalmologist and stem cell researcher at USC, spent years developing this therapy and so it’s understandable that he might be a little nervous finally getting a chance to see if it works in people.
It’s quite a complicated procedure, involving turning embryonic stem cells into the kind of cells that are destroyed by AMD, placing those cells onto a specially developed synthetic scaffold and then surgically implanting the cells and scaffold onto the back of the eye.
There’s a real need for a treatment for AMD, the leading cause of vision loss in the US. Right now, there is no effective therapy for AMD and some three million Americans are facing the prospect of losing their eyesight.
The first, preliminary, results of this trial were released last week and they were encouraging. You can read about them on our blog.
Thanks to USC you can also see the team that developed and executed this promising approach. They created a video capturing the moment the team were finally taking all that hard work and delivering it where it matters, to the patient.
Watching the video it’s hard not to think you are watching a piece of history, something that has the potential to do more than just offer hope to people losing their vision, it has the potential to stop and even reverse that process.
The video is a salute to the researchers who developed the therapy, and the doctors, nurses and Operating Room team who delivered it. It’s also a salute to the person lying down, the patient who volunteered to be the first to try this. Everyone in that room is a pioneer.