A new technique developed at the North East England Stem Cell Institute in Newcastle has used stem cells to cure blindness in eight people caused by a condition called Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency. The latter is caused by any injury to surface of the cornea such as that caused by disease, chemical burning or physical injury.
Sajjad Ahmad, the pioneer of this new technique, said that the success of the technique was evidence that a patient's own stem cells could be used to treat vision loss.
The technique involves taking a small piece of healthy corneal tissue from the healthy eye of the patient. Stem cells are then harvested from this tissue and are then allowed to multiply several hundredfold in the lab using a special culture system. These cells are then transplanted into the diseased eye where they heal the cornea.
"We want to take this from a research-based technique to one that could be used in eye departments throughout the NHS," said Dr Ahmad. "It would save a lot of money as well as preventing suffering, because patients with LSCD currently have to see an eye specialist every six weeks or so."
The details of the study appear in the journal Stem Cells.