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From Hope To Despair: Three Women Blinded By Unproven Stem Cell Therapy [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 16, 2017 09:51 AM EDT

In hopes of improving their vision, three elderly women who had gone through a stem cell treatment went blind instead, reports published in the New England Journal of Medicine said.

The women who had blurry vision because of age-related macular degeneration paid $5,000 for a procedure at a Florida clinic. The researchers stressed that such intervention was not validated by clinical trials; hence data about its safety was lacking. What's more, it was done on both eyes on the same day.

One of the patients believed that the procedure was approved by the government as part of a clinical trial. Patients who take part in experimental treatments should not have to pay them.

Stem cells from fats in the abdominal area were taken and injected into the eyes of the women. Later on, their vision turned worse as hemorrhage and detaching of the retinas started. A year later, they lost their sight.

In contrast, another article discussed the case of a patient with macular degeneration whose vision was saved after getting a different kind of stem cell treatment from Japanese doctors. The procedure had gone through rigorous studies in the past.

The Food and Drug Administration does not impose strict regulations for treatments in which stem cells are taken from the patients themselves. FDA officials expressed willingness to improve safety measures for stem cell studies, the NBC News reported.

Stem cells are a kind of cells that has the ability to develop into different types of cells such as skin, bones, etc. Researchers grow them in a laboratory from two main sources: embryos and adult tissues.

Scientists believe the future of organ transplantation rests in the success of stem cell research, according to Mayo Clinic. In fact, doctors have done bone marrow transplant, a procedure where stem cell transplantation is performed. It may help the patient replace cells damaged by disease and chemotherapy.

Research continues to focus on ensuring that stem cells turn into a specific type of cell that will be recognized by the body and function normally.

There are plenty of challenges that researchers are still trying to overcome in this field.

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