Contact lens stem cell sight aid

From BBC.co.uk

Scientists have used stem cells grown onto contact lenses to improve the sight of people with cornea damage.

The treatment was given to three patients by a team from Australia’s University of New South Wales. All saw improvements within weeks.

They used the patients’ own stem cells in the treatment, detailed in the journal Transplantation, and a type of lens already used after eye surgery.

UK experts said the small-scale study was promising.

The cornea is the transparent layer that covers the eye – but it can lose transparency, damaging sight.

In the most serious cases, people can need cornea grafts or transplants.

Corneal disease can be caused by genetic disorders, surgery, burns, infections or chemotherapy.

In this study, all three patients had damage to the epithelium – the layer of cells covering the front of the cornea.

Eye cells
The researchers in this study used limbal stem cells – found within the eye.

Stem cells are “master cells”, which have the power to transform themselves into other cell types.

The cells can be taken from any healthy part of the eye and, because they are from the patient’s own body, the transplant will not be rejected.

They removed small samples of stem cells from the eyes of the three patients – two men and a woman – and grew them on contact lenses.

The patients then wore the lenses for 10 days.

During that period, the stem cells moved off the lenses and onto the damaged corneas.

The patients were followed up for between eight and 13 months.

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