Stem cells hold promise for fixing corneas
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Following a vicious acid attack in 2008, Katie Piper has undergone 109 operations to rebuild her face. But it is the 110th op, using cutting-edge science, which could truly transform her life, providing her only chance of seeing again through her badly damaged left eye. After spending three and a half years struggling to accept she would forever be blind in one eye, Katie heard about pioneering surgery that could potentially restore her sight using the extraordinary power of stem cells.
She tracked down the doctor responsible for it and has put herself forward to be one of the first people in the world to undergo the treatment, which entails transplanting stem cells directly into her eye. Fascinated by this futuristic regenerative treatment and keen to better understand how the invasive procedure works, Katie embarks on an exploration of stem cell science.
It's hailed by some as the saviour of modern medicine, and Katie also explores the ethical debate that surrounds stem cell treatment, some of which involves the use or destruction of human embryos. Katie discovers the science behind stem cell technology, investigating the long term effects, the chance of success and moral considerations as she prepares to undergo this ground-breaking optical surgery.
Tue 07 Feb, 9PM on Channel 4 : Coming to 4OD Soon!
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Posted 03 April 2012 - 10:48 AM
Dr. Funderburgh said the stem cells stored in niches in the stroma of the eye do not naturally become activated to repair the cornea, probably because the faster process of scarring supersedes stem-cell repair. Nature, he said, apparently seeks the quicker rather than better fix.
Another study I think done the same year injected umbilical mesenchymal stem-cell covered fibroplasts into the eye, and also showed tissue reorganization and increased thickness. What's even more exciting about that one is that it clearly demonstrated that the umbilical mesenchymal stem cells automatically differentiated into a keratocyte phenotype that improved keratocyte functions. This is something that LASIK and I think PRK patients have to be concerned about, since keratocytes die in significant numbers after surgery.
Study can be found here: http://www.plosone.o...al.pone.0010707
The fact that stem cells have been discovered in the corneal stroma (dating back to a a study by the same team in 2005) show that the ability for the stroma to heal itself exists. All refractive surgery damages the epithelium, and while I can't state anything with any certainty it seems that the eye is more concerned with the immediate problem of healing the outermost surface and is perfectly okay with doing a more shoddy job on the inner part.
And as sncopeland has stated, there are a variety of other corneal stem cell work going on, some even in human clinical trial. I imagine that fixing the cornea will be something that could be achieved within 10 years (1st generation). It'll certainly be faster than other stem cell research, since the advantage of the cornea is that it is immunosuppressed.
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