Stem cells cured legally blind people

by Caleb Reading

UNSW’s press release:

In a world-first breakthrough, University of New South Wales (UNSW) medical researchers have used stem cells cultured on a simple contact lens to restore sight to sufferers of blinding corneal disease.

Sight was significantly improved within weeks of the procedure, which is simple, inexpensive and requires a minimal hospital stay.

The research team from UNSW’s School of Medical Sciences harvested stem cells from patients’ own eyes to rehabilitate the damaged cornea. The stem cells were cultured on a common therapeutic contact lens which was then placed onto the damaged cornea for 10 days, during which the cells were able to re-colonise the damaged eye surface.

[…] “One of our patients had aniridia, a congenital condition affecting both eyes. In that case, instead of taking the stem cells from the other cornea, we took them from another part of the eye altogether – the conjunctiva – which also harbours stem cells.

“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,” Dr Di Girolamo said.

[…] The researchers are hopeful the technique can be adapted for use in other parts of the eye, such as the retina, and even in other organs. “If we can do this procedure in the eye, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work in other major organs such as the skin, which behaves in a very similar way to the cornea,” Dr Di Girolamo said.

Here’s a medical breakthrough that could have been made here in the US if we’d get our act together on stem cell research.

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