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Stem cell lenses can help the blind see again

Melbourne, May 28 (ANI): In a world-first breakthrough, Australian scientists have used contact lenses coated in stem cells to restore a person’s sight.

Medical researchers from University of New South Wales used the technique to treat the damaged corneas of three patients. The patients’ vision improved within weeks of the groundbreaking procedure.

The results are published in the journal Transplant.

In the procedure, stem cells were harvested from the eyes of each patient. Then, they were cultured inside a contact lens, which was then stuck onto a damaged cornea in a “transplant” of regenerative cells.

The three patients treated had very poor vision caused by corneal disease – the fourth most common form of blindness, affecting around 10million worldwide.

“The procedure is totally simple and cheap,” quoted university’s Dr Nick Di Girolamo, as saying.

“Unlike other techniques … there’s no suturing, there is no major operation, all that’s involved is harvesting a minute amount – less than a millimetre – of tissue from the ocular surface,” the expert added.

The lens stayed on for 10 days allowing stem cells to change their form, colonise and repair the cornea.

Girolamo said that in the two 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,” 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,” the expert added. (ANI)

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