Researchers Use Stem Cells Cultured on Contact Lens to Restore Sight to Sufferers of Blinding Corneal Diseases

June 4, 2009

Last week, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) announced that its medical researchers had used stem cells cultured on a simple contact lens to restore sight to sufferers of blinding corneal diseases.

The research team from UNSW’s School of Medical Sciences harvested stem cells from patients’ own eyes to rehabilitate the damaged cornea. The stem cells were cultured on a common therapeutic contact lens which was then placed onto the damaged cornea for 10 days, during which the cells were able to re-colonise the damaged eye surface. As the lead author of the study, Dr. Nick Di Girolamo explained, the stem cells were able to change from the conjunctival phenotype to a corneal phenotype after being placed on to the cornea.

Sight was significantly improved within weeks of the procedure, which, stressed researchers, is simple, non-invasive, inexpensive and requires a minimal hospital stay. Further, unlike other techniques, the procedure requires no foreign human or animal products, only the patient’s own serum.

While the novel procedure was used to rehabilitate damaged corneas, the researchers say it offers hope to people with a range of blinding eye conditions and could have applications in other organs.

A paper detailing the breakthrough appears in the journal Transplantation this week.

Read the further details in the press release issued by UNSW.




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