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Stem Cells Show Promise in Improving Eyesight in Blind

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Two legally blind women were given the gift of sight again after receiving stem cell injections into their eyes. The breakthrough could lead to the reversal of age-related macular degeneration, which affects an estimated 1.75 million Americans, according to the National Eye Institute.

The first woman, who is in her 70s, suffers from dry macular degeneration, which is the top cause of blindness in developed nations. The second woman is in her 50s and suffers from Stargardt's disease, the leading cause of blindness in young people. Both diseases are progressive and incurable. However, with the injection of the stem cells both women are experiencing improved peripheral vision, although they still have permanent central vision loss. The researchers who performed the stem cell injection warn that this procedure is not a cure for blindness, but is a way of preventing blindness in people with early-stage macular degeneration.

Nevertheless, the women have shown remarkable improvement since having the procedure. One of the women could only see hand motion before the stem cell injection, but just one month after the procedure she could see five letters. She could also see more color, she could use her computer and she could even read her watch. The researchers are still careful and say that these two patients are only the first of 24 in the study and that the results could be because of the placebo effect. It's also only phase 1 of the study designed to test safety, not effectiveness.