Stem cells help heal eyes
Australian scientists have found that coating a common contact lens with stem cells could help restore a person\’s sight.
University of NSW medical researchers used the technique to treat the damaged corneas of three patients, all of whose vision improved within weeks of the groundbreaking procedure.
Stem cells were harvested from the eyes of each patient and then cultured inside a contact lens, which was then stuck onto a damaged cornea in a “transplant” of regenerative cells.
“The procedure is totally simple and cheap,” said the university\’s Dr Nick Di Girolamo.
“Unlike other techniques, there\’s no suturing, there is no timberland major operation, all that\’s involved timberland is harvesting a minute amount, less than a millimetre, of tissue from the timberland ocular surface,” Dr Di Girolamo said.
The lens stayed on for 10 days allowing stem cells to change their form, colonise and repair the cornea.
Some of the patients involved in the trial had suffered extensive corneal dama timberland ge to one eye, caused by multiple surgeries to remove cancerous growths.
Dr Girolamo said that in these cases the stem cells were taken from their healthy eye, but the third patient posed an additional challenge because of a congenital disorder which affected both eyes.
“We took them from another part of the eye altogether, the conjunctiva, which also harbours stem cells,” Dr Di Girolamo said.
“The stem cells were able to change from the conjunctival phenotype to a corneal phenotype after we put them onto the cornea that\’s the beauty of stem cells,” he said.
According to Dr Di Girolamo, the procedure could be replicated in third would countries by a surgeon with a laboratory for cell culture.
It offered hope to people with a range of blinding eye conditions, he said, and there was also the possibility of adapting the technique to repair skin which behaved in a similar way to the eye.
The stem cell procedure was considered non controversial, said former Deputy Chair of the Lockhart Committee on human cloning and embryo research Professor Loane Skene.
“Provided that patients are told the new procedure is experimental and they then consent to have it, this use of a patient\’s own stem cells is no more ethically contentious than a skin transplant,” Prof Skene said.