Unorthodox Stem Cell Treatment for Macular Degeneration

Unorthodox Stem Cell Treatment for Macular Degeneration

Stem cell therapy has been in the works for decades but it is the culmination of these years of study that just may be coming to fruition for many health challenges today. One such study is the Stem Cell Ophthalmology Treatment Study or SCOTS which may be one of the first successful applications for those afflicted with vision loss such as macular degeneration.

By harvesting stem cells (not from embryos but from the patient themselves) and applying them to specific visual areas that disease is overtaking, it has been found that there are beneficial results which, in some cases, may lead to the reversal of loss of sight. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 13 million Americans suffer from some sort of vision loss, any new study that proposes gaining even a small percentage of restored sight offers a significant impact.

One doctor took matters into his own hands and began the SCOTS protocol in a very unorthodox manner. The results have been an impressive restored or partially restored sight for over 100 patients.

Beyond the Norm

Waiting for new medical breakthroughs can take years. Required testing is done in laboratory settings using animal models as well as extensive clinical trials that are expensive and exhausting. Even after such requirements there is no guarantee that the results will reap success.

However, if those afflicted agree to being part of real time procedures knowing full well the risks involved, a study can be rapidly accelerated beyond the lab and directly into human trials. It is a dangerous leap that even Congress is looking to allow giving many who struggle or even die waiting for the snail’s pace of red tape progress, hope.

Ocular Pioneer

Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, from Margate, Florida began his SCOTS program with funding from none other than the patients themselves. Dr. Weiss has shown substantial success with his stem cell approach enabling him to charge $20,000+ per patient. Other than professional collaboration, the SCOTS program is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical, governmental or private interest group and his research does not include lab animals or a double blind placebo controlled trial. Yet, with over 100 patients claiming various sight restoration, people are taking notice.

It’s in the Marrow

Extracting patient stem cells is intricate business. We all have them yet it is akin to taking a microscopic computer chip and manually erasing all the data off of it. For application to macular degeneration patients the SCOTS process is performed by removing bone marrow from the patient’s hip. The marrow is then spun in a special machine that separates the stem cells. Once acquired, the cells are injected into the eye where the stem cells begin repairing the damaged macular cells. The mechanism is not entirely understood, yet it is reaping some ‘short of miraculous’ results.

A preliminary report of Dr. Weiss’ SCOTS method was published in Neural Regeneration Research concluding that,

“Treatment with BMSCs [bone marrow stem cells] using the specific injection methods provided within SCOTS achieved a dramatic improvement in vision.”

Real Time Reports

With so many patients having undergone the SCOTS procedure, many swear by their results, namely seeing again. Does it restore all afflictions back to 20/20 vision, unfortunately no. However, many have been restored to the point of seeing that is significantly better than before.

One case involves a Nashville, TN resident named Doug Oliver who used a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money for his procedure.

As reported by Patients for Stem Cells,

“Doug Oliver’s vision has been deteriorating since he was 30 due to a form of macular degeneration called Autosomal Dominant Drusen. By his early 50’s, Doug was legally blind, and could no longer drive or see faces.”

Doug’s SCOTS experience was covered by a Nashville FOX TV affiliate using his voluntarily released medical records of exam results documented by the Vanderbilt University Eye Institute,

  • May 2015, the time of his first television interview with FOX, (before treatment), his vision was 20/400 in the right eye and 20/2000 in the left.
  • Oct 2015, at the follow-up interview (after treatment in Aug 2015), his vision had improved to 20/40 and 20/40 visual acuity range, which is legal for driving.
  • Dec 2015, Doug received his driver’s license.
  • Mar 2016, his vision is 20/30 in his right eye and 20/40 in the left.

Shunning the Naysayers

As with any new treatment, there will always be those erring on the side of a conservative approach rather than the radical jump that so much progress has been able to result in successful achievement.

Dr. Weiss comments,

“We didn’t know how penicillin worked for many years, but it saved many lives in the meantime,…It is hubris to think that something can’t work until you understand how it does. … It is more important what the patient sees, not what I see.”

Sometimes it is the radical ones that get things done, sometimes not. However, in the case Dr. Weiss and his SCOTS program it seems like another battle won against the incurable disease of macular degeneration and other vision challenges.