Stem Cells From Own Eyes Restore Vision to Blind

By Rob Waters

                                            June 18 (Bloomberg) -- Patients blinded in one or both  eyes by chemical burns regained their vision after healthy stem cells were extracted from their eyes and reimplanted, according to a report by Italian researchers at a scientific meeting.     
    The tissue was drawn from the [limbus]("http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/341287/limbus"),  an area at the junction of the cornea and white part of the eye. It was grown on a fibrous tissue, then layered onto the damaged eyes. The cells grew into healthy corneal tissue, transforming disfigured, opaque eyes into functioning ones with normal appearance and color, said researchers led by [Graziella  Pellegrini]("http://ilo.unimo.it/Show/People.aspx?Action=Data&IdUniversity=1&IdDepartment=18&IdPeople=867&IdPeopleDept=869&IdLanguage=1") of the University of Modena’s Center for Regenerative Medicine.     
    The stem-cell treatment restored sight to more than three- quarters of the 112 patients treated, Pellegrini said yesterday in a presentation at the [International  Society for Stem Cell Research]("http://www.isscr.org/") meeting. She estimated the work may benefit 1,000 to 2,000 patients in Europe whose eyes have been damaged by [chemical  burns]("http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-chemical-burns/fa00024") and many more in developing countries where the use of chemicals is less regulated. Her patients were followed for an average of three years and some for as long as a decade.     
    “The patients, they are happy, even the partial successes,” she said in an interview at the meeting in San Francisco. “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?” 

bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601124&sid=aAH0McbjeAPw

Another win for adult stem cell research.

As noted in the article, the strength of her work is the long term success of the procedure. Some procedures work for awhile, then fail. But this seems very promising.

She authored a formal article in the Journal of Pathology, published in 2009, but written in 2008. So the Bloomberg article really gives us the up to date information. Still, here is her research article:

Epithelial stem cells in corneal regeneration and epidermal gene therapy
www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/121405054/PDFSTART

It makes for heavy reading, but opens with a mention of the wide use of stem cells for skin regeneration. And on page 6 of the link (page 222 of the journal) are a couple before/after photos of eyes treated with the stem cell therapy. The results are dramatic!

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