The short answer is nobody knows. Even her doctor, a board certified opthamologist isn’t able to declare with any certainty how her patient regained her sight.
More than 3 million Americans suffer from serious vision loss.
What we do know is that after undergoing the controversial therapy Vanna Belton is now able to see.
Despite their promise, stem cell treatments often garner skepticism from experts who are still studying their safety and effectiveness. While stem cells can be grown into any type of cell in the body, scientists generally believe proving the cells can repair or cure anything is a ways off. The only U.S. government approved stem cell treatment involves blood clotting disorders, but that hasn’t stopped those who can afford the treatments from seeking them.
In 2009, Belton was diagnosed with optic neuritis, which is optic nerve inflammation. Stuck in traffic one day, she noticed the street lights were suddenly blurry. A few weeks later, she had lost her sight.
After searching for alternatives to recover her sight, Belton found Dr. Jeffrey Weiss who was enrolling blind patient in an unorthodox stem cell therapy study. Weiss is not following the usual steps of clinical studies. Among other things, he didn’t test his treatment theories first on lab animals or using computer models, or randomize his trials by using either stem cells or placebos in study participants. He didn’t test the procedure for safety on a small group before moving to a larger trial.
While the therapy is untested and controversial, it may have allowed Vanna Belton to recover her sight. No one knows for sure, including Dr. Weiss.
More study and testing will be required.