Corneal stem cell research rapidly translated to the clinic shows promise

In Hyderabad, India, Sayan Basu is using stem cells in a pilot project to restore the eyesight of patients with damaged corneas. If proven successful, the procedure could mean that Indian citizens can avoid long waiting lists for traditional corneal transplants and avoid eye surgery altogether.

But perhaps even more notable, Basu, an eye surgeon, is using a stem-cell procedure first described only last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, based on research he helped complete at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. It represents a rare occasion when research done on mice is quickly used to treat people.

In the Pitt study, stem cells were collected from tiny biopsies in the limbus, an area of the eye between the cornea and sclera — the white part — of the undamaged eye in the mice. Those cells were replicated in a laboratory then incorporated into a gel of fibrin, a protein found in blood clots and commonly used as a surgical adhesive. The gel was spread on the damaged cornea, regenerating a clear window to the eye within four weeks.

To date, the small pilot study is showing promise in repairing scarred corneas in 10 patients, each with scarring in one eye, Basu said via emails from India. Results won’t be available until spring.

Read full, original article: University of Pittsburgh researcher uses stem cells from the eye to repair damaged corneas

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