There are so many life-altering afflictions in the world, some far more serious than others, that sometimes medical experts have a hard time deciding what to start with starting research on a cure. Often, impairing afflictions tend to gather the most response, as they hinder the sufferer’s entire future.
And few afflictions are as debilitating as blindness. Sure, even though they have a very hard time of it, people that are born blind have it slightly easier than those who become blind. And as the number one cause of blindness in the world, cataracts are definitely a high priority.
Looking to find a way to more easily fix blindness, scientists from the US, the UK, and China, and Japan had corneas and lenses developed from stem cells. This goes a very long way to prove the efficacy of stem cell research, but don’t hold your breath regarding its total legalization.
Two separate studies, one led by scientists from the United States and China and the other led by scientists from the UK and Japan, have both developed different procedures to cure blindness, both using different techniques derived from stem cell research.
The most often issue in going blind is that with age, environmental factors, or disease, the corneas tend to become less transparent than they should be, preventing 20/20 sight. But changing the cornea is a complicated surgical procedure that often leaved a big enough scar to become infected.
For the first study, the team from the U.S. and China developed away to remove and replace the lenses in eye affected by cataracts. Instead of going for the large surgical procedure, the team managed to develop a much smaller incision through which the lens is removed and a small amount of cells is introduced in its stead.
The LEC stem cells left behind are then stimulated into becoming the lens, offering the patient a new view on life. The process has already been tested on rabbits and macaques, and 12 children successfully helped the procedure pass a clinical test.
The second procedure is slightly more complex. The Cardiff and Japan researchers used iPSC stem cells to create eye cells in a lab dish. They went on to stimulate them into becoming fully grown corneas, which were then implanted in rabbits. Even though the procedure was hailed for its success, it takes too much time and money to currently be considered a viable treatment.
According to Julie Daniels, a researchers from the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology that looked over the papers,
These two studies illustrate the remarkable regenerative and therapeutic potential of stem cells. […] Whether either of the reported therapies will lead to cornea or lens transparency that can be maintained in the long term remains uncertain.
Image source: Wikimedia