Stem cell surgery could lift AMD cloud and cure blindness

It’s the breakthrough we’ve all been waiting for, says Brian Naylor, who has Age-Related Macular Disease (AMD). Surgeons are trialling a medical breakthrough that could cure blindness.

It won’t help Brian but it could save the sight of thousands of people like him and that brings into sharp focus why we should grasp the nettle and make that trip to the optician to find out if we have AMD. Yes, it’s scary but isn’t it better to know?

We must not close our eyes to the possibility of losing much of our sight and that’s why getting the message out is crucial and that’s where health-based public relations gurus like us can work wonders.

Surgeons in London have carried out pioneering human embryonic stem cell treatment in ongoing trials to find a cure for blindness.

Cells derived from a donated early embryo were implanted into the retina of a 60-year-old woman with AMD - the most common cause of blindness in the UK.

Brian Naylor’s ecstatic response and his relief for the army of AMD victims spilled out in his powerful BBC TV interview.

BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh is just as excited by this breakthrough. He says: “If it works, it will be a stunning medical advance.”

But is all this euphoria a one-day wonder in the media domain? We need to keep the momentum going and persuade people to get themselves to their optician.

Between us and our clients, we have won four awards for our public eye health awareness campaigns.

There are 600,000 people in the UK with AMD and there could be thousands more undetected because they haven’t heard of the condition or are frightened to find out if they have it. Early detection is vital and can help save your sight.

It’s been a long road to get to this stage – scientists have been working on this for 10 years. It’s also early days – we won’t find out until after Christmas whether it has improved the patient’s vision.

The trial will be widened to 10 patients, who will be monitored over a year to assess its safety and success.

AMD tends to strike after we hit 50 and it’s estimated that one in 10 people over 65 have some degree of AMD. Look around you, spread the word among families and friends – get tested regularly. 

One patient with AMD, which causes loss of central vision but maintains peripheral vision, described it as her ‘cloud’ – let’s hope that cloud is starting to lift.