A stem cell treatment done in China has enabled a 4 year girl, Izabelle, to see. She was blind since birth but now she can see things within a distance of 3ft (90 cms). The treatment cost the family about Ģ50,000. Izabelle was born with septo-optic dysplasia. This is a condition that affects just 5 in 1 million babies. A person requires millions of optic nerves to see but in this condition only a few hundred optic nerves send information to the brain. It also causes hormone deficiency and mobility problems.
The stem cell treatment involves injecting cells taken from the umbilical cord of healthy babies, in the spinal canal. The optic nerves are rebuilt with the help of these cells. This procedure is not available in the UK and is done in a very few places around the world. So Izabelle's parents got the operation done from China. They hoped that the operation would help improve her sight, speech and mobility.
Izabelle's father Hollie said: "We've seen lots of changes. Her speech has improved a lot. Before she went she could only say one or two words but now we can have a little conversation with her. Her walking has improved and she can now support her own weight on her legs. We're going to wait six months, because the stem cells continue to work for six months if she stays healthy. We're going to keep an eye on her, see how her vision is, and then decide if we'll go back to China to see if we can improve even more." Professor Chris Mason, of the UK Stem Cell Foundation, said, "The treatments are still experimental and it would be at least 12 years before approved therapies would be available. However it does promise to give us a fantastic new tool to cure many diseases."