University College London

Restoring vision in blind people

Two people, whose vision had largely been destroyed by disease can now see the world again, thanks to groundbreaking stem cell research led by UCL’s Professor Pete Coffey.

The disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common form of blindness, affecting 600,000 to 700,000 people in the UK alone.

Pete Coffey, Professor of Visual Psychophysics at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, has pioneered treatment to enable people whose vision has deteriorated to see again.

For the past 12 years, he and his team have developed a stem cell therapy that effectively treats the disease, allowing people to read and see faces.

They are now working on an “off-the-shelf” treatment they hope will be available on the NHS within four years. It is believed that it could become as common as cataract surgery.

Professor Coffey has co-led the London Project to Cure Blindness since 2007 in collaboration with Professor Lyndon da Cruz, a retinal surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital.

The team’s ground-breaking procedure involves implanting a “patch” of stem cells over the back of the eye. To develop the therapy, Professor Coffey and his team created the cells, perfected a new surgical technique and new surgical tools to implant them, and pioneered imaging techniques to monitor their progress once in the eye.