Corneal blindness could be cured by stem cell therapy

Vision loss is a serious condition that dramatically affects the lives of millions of people around the world. Diseases affecting the cornea are a major cause of blindness worldwide, second only to cataract in overall importance.

The researchers from the UK Stem Cell Foundation and Scottish Enterprise, in partnership with the Chief Scientist Office, is all ready to begin world first ever human trials this month using adult stem cells that could potentially restore vision to patients with corneal and other blindness.

The most awated clinical trial which is set to start in Scotland this month with around 20 patients represents a major breakthrough  for stem cell therapies that often take years of animal testing to bring to human trials.

The transplantation of stem cells on to the surface of the cornea will replace diseased limbal stem cells in the eye of a patient with chronic corneal disease by healthy limbal stem cells.

The researchers hope that the healthy cells will encourage further growth, and help repair the cornea's surface.

The current and only treatments which is  available for corneal blindness are a corneal transplant or a tissue graft, both of which having higher risks of infection.

According to the chairman of the scientific committee of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Winfried Amoaku —

There are some types of corneal blindness that are not treatable by any other means so if they can be treated in this way it is a very significant breakthrough, very exciting.

He even believes that the developments could later be extended to include those who had never been able to see, if their blindness was due to damage to the cornea.

There are some people who are born blind due to problems with the cornea and those people may be cured by this treatment,

While cataract is responsible for nearly 20 million of the 45 million blind people in the world, the next major cause is trachoma which blinds 4.9 million individuals, mainly as a result of corneal scarring and vascularization.The loss of independence resulting from blindness and visual impairment can have devastating consequences for individuals and their families.
Source: Stem Cell Research Blog

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