Scientists restore eye sight by stem cell treatment

Last Updated: Friday, December 25, 2009 - 00:00

London: In yet another medical achievement,
British scientists have restored eyesight of a partially blind
person using pioneering stem cell treatment.

Eye surgeons at the North East England Stem Cell
Institute (NESCI), has almost completely restored the vision
of Russell Turnbull who was blinded in one eye by a chemical
attack.

The attack, which badly burned and scarred Russell (38)
as he intervened to stop a fight, left him with permanent
blurred sight and pain whenever he blinked.

Now, however, his sight has been almost fully restored
thanks to the new technique in which doctors regrown the
outside membrane of his cornea from stem cells taken from his
healthy eye.

According to the article published in journal Stem Cells,
the new operation involved cutting away a millimetre squared
section of his left eye completed with stem cells and growing
it to 400 times that size in the laboratory.

The outer skin of the eye is then stitched onto the badly
damaged cornea in place of the damaged membrane.

"Corneal cloudiness has been estimated to cause blindness
in eight million people worldwide each year, Dr Francisco
Figueiredo, Consultant Eye Surgeon at NESCI team, who co-led
the project was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

"The stem cell treatment option is aimed at total cure
rather than symptom relief only. This new treatment will
alleviate patient suffering and remove the need for long term
multiple medications as well as returning the patient to
functional and social independence."

Dr Sajjad Ahmad, who developed the Newcastle method for
culturing limbal stem cells, said "This study shows that stem
cell research conducted in the laboratory can have a major
impact on the quality of life of patients with corneal
disease".

He said, "This work has been a team effort involving stem
cell researchers and hospital doctors working together
effectively."

A larger study involving 24 new patients is currently
underway with funding from the UK`s Medical Research Council.

Turnbull, a storeman, said: "The operation was a complete
success and I now have my sight back. This really has given me
my life back."

PTI



First Published: Friday, December 25, 2009 - 00:00

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