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Stem Cells Can Repair a Damaged Cornea, Preventing Blindness

Scientists from Sweden have taken the first step towards curing damaged cornea with stem cells, a finding that could prevent thousands of people going blind. The study has been published in the journal Acta Ophthalmologica

Today people with damaged cornea, in order not to become blind, can only count on transplantation of the healthy tissue, when cloudy and damaged cornea is replaced with a transparent one. About 100,000 cornea transplantations are carried out each year in the world. 

However, the quantity of donated cornea is not enough to satisfy the demand, and the waiting-list for cornea transplantation is long. This is accompanied by a few number of clinics providing cornea transplantation in the world. Additional factor that hinders cornea transplantation is religious concerns and political constraints for the use of donated material. 

To overcome the problem of the shortage of the donated material, scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, aimed to replace it with cornea cultivated from stem cells. In their study, they used defective corneas obtained from an ophthalmology clinic in Molndal. Then they took human stem cells and cultivated them 16 days in the lab and 6 days on the cornea. As a result, stem cells developed into epithelial cells that are responsible for maintaining the cornea transparent, i.e. healthy. 

Though similar experiments involving animals were carried out earlier, this is the first time ever stem cells were grown on damaged human cornea. If the scientists could introduce the method into medical practice, the shortage of the donated cornea could be overcome. One more advantage of treating cornea with stem cells would be simpler surgical procedures and aftercare.

Fetal stem cells treatment results depend on: disease's severity, age of the patient, adherence for the medications and regime. Treatment results, presented on this site, are individual for each clinical case.