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Vanna Belton is known to have been visually impaired for over five days. However, as a result of a surgery involving the extraction of stem cells from bone marrow being injected in the retina of the right eye as well as the optic nerve of the left eye – Belton seems to have gotten some sense of sight. She spoke to Baltimore Sun, saying that she began to read the license plates as soon as she realized she could see them.
Jeffrey N. Weiss is the doctor who performed this treatment and failed to explain how he managed to make this process work on as many as 278 patients. Meredith Cohn from Baltimore Sun mentioned that Weiss opted not to follow the typical steps followed in clinical studies. It is interesting to note that Weiss did not test his theories on lab rats or run computer simulations. Instead, he went out of the way to test this on a larger group of people.
Weiss is of the view that the traditional path takes way a very long time. This explains why the doctor settled for a fresh treatment to operate on his own conditions. He did have to register the human trials with US National Institute of Health. The usual route merits the approval from Food and Drug Administration prior to any new drugs being tested. The only gripe here is that stem cells are categorized as drugs as they are extracted from one’s body before going through some processing and used on a patient.
As a result, Weiss managed to avoid FDA approval while undergoing oversight from an ethics review panel. Weiss can now earn nearly $20,000 from each patient upon the performance of stem cell treatment which comes with no guarantees of a cure. Interestingly, 60 percent of the 278 patients managed to partially regain their sight. No wonder that the likes of Belton feel ‘happy to be a guinea pig’.
Belton’s case study is published in the journal Neural Regeneration Research.