Researchers suggest that they have found a reservoir of stem cells in the front of the eyes, which may help cure common forms of blindness.

The latest study can help healthcare professionals cure a number of eye conditions including age related macular degeneration (AMD) or retinitis pigmentosa, which are caused due to the loss of photoreceptor cells. Researchers suggest that AMD is the foremost cause of blindness in the UK, which affects about one in every three people by the age of 75 years.

More than 500,000 people in the UK are believed to be in the late stage of AMD and about 90 percent of the cases are untreatable. Researchers suggest that by 2020, more than 700,000 people will be affected with AMD in the UK.

AMD initially causes distorted or blurred vision, which can worsen and result in total blindness over time.

Recent study conducted by the scientists of the University of Southampton reveals that the front of the eye houses stem cells that can be made to act like photoreceptor cells, which is required to see light.

Researchers explain that the loss of photoreceptors result in irreversible blindness but the latest discovery can help scientists to develop new treatments to cure blindness.

"These cells are readily accessible, and they have surprising plasticity, which makes them an attractive cell resource for future therapies," says Professor Andrew Lotery, a consultant ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital, who is also the lead researcher of the study.

Lotery also suggests that the latest discovery will help doctors avoid any complications with contamination or rejection as the stem cells taken from the eyes will be used for the same patient.

The researchers also pointed out that the special stem cells were also available in a 97-year old person whom they examined.

Scientists claim that the stem cell implant concept works well in the laboratories. The researchers anticipate that the stem cells can be taken from a patient's eye, matured in the lab environment and then transplanted back to provide vision to blind people. However, more research is needed before they can test the latest concept on humans.

Charities are also optimistic that the new discovery will help people see again. Clara Eaglen, Eye Health Campaigns Manager at Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) reveals that when they speak to people who have lost their vision, they reveal the difficulties they face in everyday life.

Clara hopes that the new stem cell technology is swiftly available, which can change the lives of thousands of people who have lost their vision.

The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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