Patient claims brighter eyesight after world’s first iPS retina transplant


The eye disease patient who received the world’s first transplant of a retina sheet made of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells says her eyesight is brighter, a Japanese research team announced Saturday.

The patient, a woman in her 70s, is doing well after Friday’s transplant of a retina sheet made of iPS cells into her right eye, according to the team, led by the government-backed Riken institute. The team is poised to examine the safety and effects of the treatment.

Yasuo Kurimoto, one of the surgeons who conducted the surgery, told a news conference, “The transplant may have produced the effect, but it is too early to tell.” Kurimoto is from the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation Hospital in Kobe.

The surgery was conducted to treat exudative age-related macular degeneration, which causes abnormal blood vessel formation in the retinas and could lead to total loss of vision.

In an examination of the patient on Saturday morning, the retina sheet was placed in the right position and no bleeding or complication was confirmed, according to Kurimoto and others.

No eyesight checks have been conducted yet on the patient. But she reportedly appeared fine during breakfast and said she could clearly see the white color of a coat.

The surgery to get rid of abnormal blood vessels on the retina could help the patient to better receive light in her eye, Kurimoto said. It normally takes between six months and one year before a patient reaches maximum eyesight following surgery, he added.

“I’m very glad to see the patient pleased,” Kurimoto said.

The woman is expected to leave the hospital in about a week if her condition remains good.

Keeping a watch on whether there are cancer cells in the transplanted retina and changes of eyesight, the research team will make a follow-up report in a year at the earliest. It will announce any abnormalities immediately.

Under the current plan, transplants will be conducted on a total of six patients suffering from the same eye disease, including the woman who underwent the surgery on Friday.

Riken researcher Masayo Takahashi, who heads the project, said at a news conference Friday night, “Our team may need to resubmit an application of the treatment plan after a law amendment, but is ready to push forward with the project quickly.”