Vision restored to blind using own eye stem cells

Patients who were blinded in one or both eyes by chemical burns were restored their sight after healthy stem cells were extracted from their eyes and reimplanted, according Italian researchers at the University of Modena’s Center for Regenerative Medicine.

The stem cells were drawn from an area called the limbus, where cornea and the white part of the eye meet. The extracted tissue was grown on fibrous tissue, and then layered onto the damaged eyes. The cells grew into healthy corneal tissue, turning disfigured, non-functional eyes into working eyes with normal colour and appearance.

More than 75% of the 112 patients treated had their sight restored using this stem-cell treatment, according to Graziella Pellegrini, the leader of the research team. In an interview at the meeting in San Francisco where the report was published, she said: “We have a couple of patients who were blind in both eyes. Can you imagine for these patients the change in their quality of life?”

Ivan Schwab, professor of ophthalmology and stem cell researcher at the University of California, Davis, praised Pellegrini’s work, particularly for its long-term success. Schwab has treated patients in clinical trials using a procedure based on Pellegrini’s research. Although his patients showed some short-term improvement, the benefits did not last long. Pellegrini’s showed long-term improvement, Schwab told Bloomberg last week.

Many of her patients were blind for many years before the transplant, as a result of blood vessels and tissue growing over the damaged parts of the eye. Some had undergone failed surgeries and other treatments. ~Bloomberg, Jun 18

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