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New research may repair vision for the blind

According to new research from Scotland, millions of blind people may stand the chance to repair their vision significantly by using stem cells taken from non living donors.

Eight patients with a common condition that destroys vision have had the affected area repaired—and two were able to read again after having severe macular degeneration.

The new treatment may lead to a cure for blindness caused by damage to the cornea – the protective surface of the eye. It often becomes clouded in older people through injury or infection. In more underdeveloped countries, children and younger people are also increasingly prone.

Describing the breakthrough as a “world first”, Dhillon and colleagues said that it sheds light on the causes of sight disorders and shows how eye damage can be fixed with organ donor stem cells.

The study published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine focused on limbal stem cells, which are typically lacking in patients suffering from corneal blindness. The cells lie in the the top layer of the cornea, the epithelium, and act as a barrier against dust and germs.

Without this tissue the cornea becomes irregular, destroying vision and leaving the eye prone to infection. It can result from damage caused by chemicals or heat – or a disease called aniridia, which can lead to scarring and severe vision loss in both eyes as well as chronic pain and redness.

Normal healthy corneas are transparent – but when these specialized cells are lost, the cornea becomes scarred and blurred.

As a means of repairing the cornea, the team used samples from people who had donated their eyes after death in order to grow the stem cells.

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