Using stem cells to restore sight

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Using stem cell therapy, a team of Italian researchers was able to restore sight for patients who had been blinded or suffered severely impaired vision after suffering a chemical burn. In a study of 106 patients treated between 1998 and 2007, researchers were able to extract adult stem cells from healthy eye tissue, grow additional stem cells in the lab and secure them over the damaged eye tissue. Of 107 eyes treated during the study, the researchers from the University of Modena’s Center for Regenerative Medicine were able to restore sight completely in 82 eyes, and partially in 14 more.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, includes the case of one man whose eyes were injured more than six decades ago. After this novel stem cell treatment, he has near normal vision. The research is being hailed as a grand advancement in regeneration. Dr. Ivan Schwab, an ophthalmologist at the University of California, Davis, applauded the development, describing it as a “roaring success” to the Associated Press.

The treatment technique is limited to people who still have some healthy eye tissue and at least partial vision, as it requires extracting some living stem cells to cultivate new ones. Yet for patients, many of whose vision was restored within mere months of treatment, the new technique has been life-altering. Speaking to the AP, study leader Graziella Pellegrini explained:

“They were incredibly happy. Some said it was a miracle… It was not a miracle. It was simply a technique.”

Read the full AP story here.