In the study led by Dr. Norman D. Radtke of University of Louisville, Ky., and colleagues found that retina transplants improved vision in 7 out of 10 patients with vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration
Out of the ten patients, six patients had lost vision due to RP and four had the "dry" form of AMD.
Both RP and AMD lead to destruction of the light-receiving (photoreceptor) cells of the retina.
The fetal retinal cells were implanted along with their attached retinal pigment epithelium, which plays a key role in nourishing the photoreceptor cells.
Researchers believed that the new cells would grow to replace the damaged photoreceptor cells, connecting to the patient's remaining retina.
They found that three of the patients with RP and all four patients with AMD showed improvements in their vision.
"This clinical evidence shows the promise of our method to alter progressive vision loss due to incurable degenerative diseases of the retina," said Dr. Radtke.
One patient with RP showed visual improvement even upto six years after surgery, while vision in the opposite (untreated) eye continued to deteriorate.
In the same patient, specialized tests showed a 27 percent increase in light sensitivity in the treated eye.
The team said that further research is required to determine the potential for retinal transplantation to improve vision in patients with these diseases.