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Stem cell treatment helps restore vision

In a clinical trial that was conducted by Scottish researchers, two people received stem cell transplants to treat their corneal blindness. This is the first trial of its kind that has been developed in the UK.

Corneal diseases are the second major cause of blindness after cataracts affecting about 20 million people world-wide. Some people develop this condition due to a genetic disposition while others can develop it later in life because of other reasons. The only known treatment for the disease up-to-date is transplantation of cornea tissue from a donor.

In the trial run by SNBTS together with NHS Lothian and NHS Greater Glasgow and ClydeBoth, both the trial participants have corneal blindness. To help them restore vision, the researchers turned to the promises of the regenerative therapy that involves stem cells. Both the patients were transplanted corneal epithelial stem cells onto their cornea. The cells’ source was deceased donors, and before the transplantation stem cells were grown in the lab to reach the necessary cell quantity.

Sylvia Paton from Edinburgh was the first patient to undergo stem cell therapy for her cornea blindness 12 weeks ago. Before the stem cell treatment, her scarred and damaged cornea part was surgically removed. During the next few months, the transplanted cells are expected to slow down disease progress and even to restore the patient’s sight that had not exceeded 10 per cent of the vision of a healthy person prior to stem cell transplntation.

After that, the researchers will be able to make conclusions as regards the stem cell treatment effectiveness in corneal blindness patients. If the treatment proves to be a success, many other people worldwide could benefit from it some time later.

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.