Stem cells could bring back vision for a Wakefield business owner

Marcus Hilton, of Wakefield, is the first person in Europe to have stem cells inserted into his eyes to help him see
Marcus Hilton, of Wakefield, is the first person in Europe to have stem cells inserted into his eyes to help him see

A BAR owner from Wakefield has become the first person in Europe to have limited eyesight treated with embryo stem cell research.

Marcus Hilton, 34, suffers from Stargardt’s disease and took part in the research which has improved the eyesight of patients in America who were deemed officially blind.

Stargardt’s disease is a form of macular degeneration and involves the loss of the central field of vision.

Mr Hilton, who owns city centre bars The Priory and The Courtyard, was diagnosed with the disease aged 10 and has had limited vision for most of his life.

But two weeks ago the father-of-one received ground-breaking treatment, where embryo stem cells were injected into his eyes in a bid to replace damaged cells.

The research at this stage is just to trial the safety of the treatments, but doctors have seen positive results.

Mr Hilton said: “It’s early days yet. I just thought there was nothing to loose really – the back of the retina is damaged and this is the only way that could repair it.

“It would bring back a bit more normality to my life, being able to read newspapers and see my daughter.”

Doctors in the study will assess Mr Hilton’s eyesight in a few months so see if there has been an improvement.

Prof Jim Bainbridge operated on Mr Hilton and is leading the safety trial at Moorfields and the University College London institute of ophthalmology.

He said: “There is real potential that people with blinding disorders of the retina, including Stargardt’s disease and age-related macular degeneration, might benefit from transplantation of retinal cells.

“We are very pleased the first transplant surgery has gone smoothly and look forward to seeing the results as the trial progresses over the next two years.”

The treatment at Moorfields was part of a trial by US company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT).

Prof Peng Khaw, director of the biomedical research centre at Moorfields, said: “We are delighted to be the site for these exciting clinical trials, which have the potential to give hope and make a difference to people with currently untreatable blinding retinal conditions.”