We focus here primarily on myopia, as the most common ailment of the eye. In that process we may sound less than idealistic about the mainstream treatment options and many of the practitioners advocating […]
We focus here primarily on myopia, as the most common ailment of the eye.
In that process we may sound less than idealistic about the mainstream treatment options and many of the practitioners advocating surgery or glasses. It’s easy to loose track of just how much medical science is advancing, especially in terms of acute symptom treatment of eye related injuries. An example of this that is most promising to those with corneal scarring, corneal burns, or other corneal damage. Corneal infectious diseases alone affect more than 250.000.000 people worldwide (source: National Eye Institute), blinding as many as 6.000.000 people. Currently the only real treatment option is corneal transplants.
Especially as we get older, corneal damage becomes an increasingly common cause of clouded vision. Not to be confused with cataracts which happen on the lens (behind the cornea), the cornea tends to be most susceptible to external damage.
Published last month in Science Translational Medicine, a study using stem cells to treat scar tissue on the cornea (by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine), is the future we can look forward to:
Study lead author Sayan Basu, MBBS, MS, a corneal surgeon working at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India, joined Dr. Funderburgh’s lab in Pittsburgh. Dr. Basu had previously developed a technique to obtain ocular stem cells from tiny biopsies at the surface of the eye and a region between the cornea and sclera known as the limbus. Removal of tissue from this region heals rapidly with little discomfort and no disruption of vision. After collecting biopsies from banked human donor eyes, the team expanded the numbers of cells in a culture plate using human serum to nourish them. They conducted several tests to verify that they these cells were, in fact, corneal stem cells.
“Using the patient’s own cells from the uninjured eye for this process could let us bypass rejection concerns,” Dr. Basu noted. “That could be very helpful, particularly in places that don’t have corneal tissue banks for transplant.”
The team then tested the human stem cells in a mouse model of corneal injury. They used a gel of fibrin, a protein found in blood clots that is commonly used as a surgical adhesive, to glue the cells to the injury site. They found the scarred corneas of mice healed and became clear again within four weeks of treatment, while those of untreated mice remained clouded.
“Even at the microscopic level, we couldn’t tell the difference between the tissues that were treated with stem cells and undamaged cornea,” Dr. Funderburgh said.
“We were also excited to see that the stem cells appeared to induce healing beyond the immediate vicinity of where they were placed. That suggests the cells are producing factors that promote regeneration, not just replacing lost tissue.”
His team’s work is the inspiration behind a small pilot study underway in Hyderabad in which a handful of patients will receive their own corneal stem cells as a treatment.”
Exciting in particular is that human trials are already underway in Hyderabad (India FTW), making this more than just another one of the far flung experiments that don’t make it past the mouse for a decade. (Full article here.)
Thanks to Neha for passing on this bit of eye-news.
Cheers and as Alex always says, do take a moment to enjoy your healthy eyesight today!
– Jake Steiner
Reformed stock trader. Kite surfer, pilot, vagabond. Father. And of course - the last of the living, imaginarily bearded eye gurus.