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25 Oct 2011
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A step closer to curing Blindness

Scientists and medical teams are finding newer and newer applications for stem cell therapy. The news from the Italian team headed by Dr. Graziella Pellegrini, PhD, of the University of Moderna's Center for Regenerative Medicine, cannot be more heartening.

Dr.Pellegrini and his team of researchers have published the results of a decade long study of patients who received stem cell treatment for loss of vision due to chemical or thermal burns. The numbers, according to many, represent a significant breakthrough in regeneration medicine, with 77% of patients having a successful first or second graft of stem cells. These patients, who suffered corneal damage due to chemical/thermal burns, reported an improvement in eyesight and a lessening of symptoms like light sensitivity, itching and pain.

The procedure extracts healthy stem cells from the patient’s own eyes, from an area called the limbus (located between the coloured and white part of the eye). For extraction, even a tiny portion of undamaged limbus is sufficient. The extracted stem cells then grew into healthy corneal tissue, in about two weeks, and were transplanted onto the damaged eye. And in many cases, the transplant resulted in the damaged, opaque cornea becoming clear again!

This procedure, while not performed in the United States, has been used to treat over 250 patients in the last decade in Italy, many of whom were part of the study.

This news coming on the back of another successful eye related stem cell treatment in China, offers fresh hope to the millions affected by blindness, that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel.

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