Tokyo: Japanese doctors have successfully carried out the first ever implantation of a retina grown from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).
The recipient was a 70-year-old man suffering from macular degeneration.
The procedure took place Friday at the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation in the southern city of Kobe, under the direction of a group of scientists from the Riken Institute.
Researchers extracted skin samples from women to grow iPS cells capable of serving as retinal tissue, which then were used to surgically replace part of the macula, the main photo-receptor layer of the retina.
The scientists said that their priority was not to attempt to restore the patient's sight, but to determine if there are any unforeseen side effects, such as tumours, arising from the procedure.
According to the researchers, who will study the patient's evolution over the next four years, since the patient will have already lost most of the cells responsible for vision, a transplant may bring only slight improvement or merely slow down the rate of degeneration.
Macular degeneration is an age-related disease that currently affects about 700,000 people in Japan and is the principal cause of blindness in the world.