Latest Adult Stem Cell Advance Gives Sight to the Blind
July 2, 2010 2 Comments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – For individuals blinded by chemical burns, the ever advancing field of adult stem-cell research has provided yet another astonishing cure – giving them sight through their own stem cells. Italian researchers have reported developing a very successful therapy to cure those who were either blinded, or whose vision was severely impaired by chemical burns to their corneas.
Such burns can come about through handling everything from toxic cleaning substances at home to heavy-duty chemicals at work.
The new stem-cell therapy, however, is specific to chemical burns and cannot be used to remedy other diseases or damages to the eye, such as glaucoma or retinal damage.
In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists treated 107 eyes of 106 patients with stem cells derived from the limbus, the rim around the cornea, where stem cells are naturally produced by the body to repair the cornea.
The researchers derived the stem cells from a patient’s healthy eye, and then encouraged them to multiply. Once they had enough stem cells, they removed the scar tissue over the bad eye and grafted the stem cells onto the cornea, which then began to generate new corneal tissues.
After 12-24 months had passed, these grafts were then followed up by corrective surgeries.
One patient had severe alkali burns on both his eyes from 1948. Researchers, however, were able to adapt and derive limbal stem-cell cultures with biopsied tissue taken from the patient’s left eye. The therapy managed to successfully restore both corneal surfaces, transitioning the man from blindness to having an almost normal, combined vision of close to 20/30. Follow-ups after two and five years showed that both eyes were stable after the treatment.
In all, the treatment had a 76.6% success rate, sustained over the past decade. The researchers note that all their failure cases occurred within the first year of treatment. In all, 82 of 107 eyes had successful cures, with partial success in 14 others. Read more.