YOUR HEALTH: Stem cell therapy that helps restore lost sight

MARGATE, Florida – Alison Milianta lost her vision due to a brain tumor a few years ago.

"You panic, it's almost like you're in an earthquake, it's like everything is closing in on you."

That's when she found retinal specialist Dr. Jeffrey Weiss.

"I will not accept that somebody is blind and that's it," said Dr., Weiss, who is an ophthalmologist at Retinal Associates.   "In 2010, I did the first ocular retinal stem cell surgery in Düsseldorf, Germany."

Since then, Dr. Weiss says his procedure is now FDA-compliant in the United States.

Weiss uses stem cells from the patient's own bone marrow.

"These are your stem cells, you do not need to be immunosuppressed," he explained.

Then he injects the stem cells around each eye, letting the growth factors go to work.

"Once the cells are there they may stimulate the remaining cells that are already present to start functioning again."

He says it typically takes four to six months for patients to see improvement.

MORE FROM DR. WEISS:   Dr. Jeffrey N. Weiss is a physician, retinal specialist and electrical engineer.  He says he's done about 47 different conditions and many of the conditions are mixed.   He says more than 80% of people gained vision with approximately 45% of the patients gaining seven or more lines of vision.   15% to 20% see some improvement on the first day, but typically Dr. Weiss says it takes four to six months for the patients to see improvement.

Alicia Johnson lost her vision at age 9 and traveled to Florida from Tennessee for her first procedure in 2016.

"The blind spot is not as big as it was, I'm not tripping over things."

She's back for a second procedure with the hope of someday driving again.

"I went out and bought a little Volkswagen which I've always wanted, convertible."

Dr. Weiss treats many conditions that cause blindness and he says he reviews a patient's records for free,

The procedure is not covered by insurance and costs just under $20,000 dollars.

Dr. Weiss says the stem cell procedure is registered with the National Institutes of Health.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.