Repairing Blindness Due to Corneal Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency

Here is an example of a stem cell therapy that is just a little advanced over established medical techniques - in effect just a more sophisticated and cost-effective version of a tissue transplant:

A variety of things can cause [corneal limbal stem cell deficiency], including chemical and thermal burns to the corneas, which are the glass "domes" over the coloured part of our eyes. But it's also thought that microbial infections and wearing daily wear contact lenses for too long without properly disinfecting them can lead to the disease, too.

Since a corneal transplant was not an option for Binns, his doctors at Toronto Western Hospital proposed something new: a limbal stem cell transplant. The limbus is the border area between the cornea and the whites of the eye where the eye normally creates new epithelial cells. Since Binns' limbus was damaged, doctors hoped that giving him healthy limbal cells from a donor would cause healthy new cells to grow over the surface. While the treatment is available in certain centres around the U.S., Binns became the first patient to try the treatment at a new program at Toronto Western Hospital. Though Binns knew he'd need to take anti-rejection drugs, he decided the procedure was worth a try.

Just like with an organ transplant, Binns' doctors had to find a healthy match. It turned out his younger sister, Victoria, was the ideal candidate for the job. In the operating room, doctors removed the scar tissue on Taylor's eyes, then took some healthy stem cells from Victoria's eyes and stitched them to the surface of Binns' eyes. "Within a month he could see 20/40. His last visit he was 20/20 and 20/40."

Researchers are also working on using stem cells from deceased donors and even using limbal stem cells from a patient's own eyes. While that would require growing the cells in a lab to force them to multiply, it would also mean that patients might be able to skip anti-rejection drugs.

Link: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/ontario-man-s-sight-restored-with-help-of-stem-cells-1.1088888

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