Stem Cells Are Now Being Used to Repair a Human’s Cornea
Corneas, when exposed too much to the outside world, can be damaged just like skin. Scientists found a new way to identify which stem cells can help restore damaged corneas. Damaged corneas can be caused by infection, injuries, burns, and from certain types of diseases. Patients that have visually significant damaged corneas may not be eligible for Lasik Eye Surgery. Cornea is a clear tissue in front of the Iris (color portion of the eye), which focuses the light on the back of the eye (retina) where the image is further processed to ultimately become the clear image that we see. When a cornea is damaged, light entering the eye would either get distorted or blocked leading to blurred or distorted image or loss of vision. Scientists have discovered that by transplanting limbal epithelial cells (cells that repair a damaged corneal surface) into the limbus (the outer edge of the cornea), long-term vision may be restored in some patients. Using this method, the stem cells from human eyes have been used to repair damaged corneas in mice. In some studies, cell transplants were used to help regenerate the cornea, but it was unknown whether these cells were of a limbal epithelial stem cells origin or if another type of cell was being developed. This made the study very inconsistent, and impossible to track. Now, a team of scientists have found that by using an antibody for the ABCB5 protein, they are able to identify adult-derived human stems cells from limbal epithelial cells.
Scientist tested this study by transplanting these stem cells into blind mice with extensive damaged corneas. Five weeks later, the blind mice was notice to regained vision.
“I think a very exciting part of the study is that even though there is a lot of evidence that adult stem cells contribute to tissue regeneration, what we see is basically the first evidence that you can take adult stem cells and regrow the organ that’s been damaged,” Natasha Frank said.
This new study may be the answer to restoring the vision in patients that have damaged corneas of any cause.
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