Cure for cataracts – New Stem Cell treatment
Cure for cataracts: scientists use stem cells to grow ‘living lens’ in eye Cataracts can be cured by regrowing the lens in the eye with stem cells, a breakthrough hailed as ‘remarkable’ by scientists
Cataracts can be cured with stem cells to regrow a ‘living lens’ in their attention, restoring sight in only 3 weeks, scientists have revealed. In study described as ‘remarkable,’ surgeons reversed blindness in 12 infants born with congenital cataracts by removing the damaged lens and coaxing nearby cells to repair the damage. It could pave the way for a huge number of elderly people in Britain having their sight restored using their own cells. Presently, cataracts are treated by inserting a synthetic plastic lens into the eye, but which can result in infections, inflammation and a night time halo effect in vision. For infants the risks from surgery are even greater because the eye is still developing.
But using the new technology scientists at the University of California, San Diego, showed that cataracts with no necessity for a transplant. They plan to begin work on age-related cataracts that happen when clumps of protein build up over time, developing a clouding effect. “An ultimate goal of stem cell research is to turn to the regenerative capacity of one’s own stem cells for tissue and organ repair and disease therapy,” said Dr Kang Zhang, chief of Ophthalmic Genetics and founding director of this Institute for Genomic Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “The success of the work represents a new strategy in how new individual tissue or organ can be modulated and human disorder could be treated, and might have a wide impact on regenerative treatments by harnessing the regenerative power of our body.
“We believe that our new strategy will produce a paradigm change in cataract operation and might offer patients a safer and better treatment alternative in the future.” Cataract surgery is now the most common surgical procedure undertaken in England with approximately 300,000 operations performed yearly around the NHS. The procedure involves removing the clouded lens and inserting an artificial plastic variant, known as an intraocular lens. However, a high number of patients undergoing operation are left with poor vision and still need to wear glasses for driving or reading a book.
The new technique eliminates the lens leaves behind the lens capsule – a membrane that will help give the lens its necessary shape to operate. Nearby regenerative stem cells are then moved to the membrane where they begin to grow to a new, fully functioning and translucent lens.
The procedure was carried out on 12 infants under the age of two who healed far more rapidly and without complication compared with a group of 25 kids who had a conventional plastic lens fitted After three months, a transparent, regenerated curved lens have grown in all the trial patients’ eyes. Nearly 300 babies are born with congential cataracts every year in Britain. Dr Dusko Ilic, Reader in Stem Cell Science, King’s College London, described the trial as a ‘remarkable achievement.’ “This is only one of the finest achievements in the field of regenerative medicine until today,” said. “The fundamental science study resulted in the hypothesis that preserving and stimulating stem cells from the eye might promote regeneration of a surgically removed lens. “And really, their hypothesis was true. They established it first by testing a new surgical strategy in rabbits and primates before successfully treating 12 infants. It is science at its very best.”
Prof Graham McGeown, Deputy Head of the School of Medicine, Dentistry & Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, said that the research could result in ‘a significant new treatment.’ “They showed that this new approach radically reduced the risk of sight damaging side effects when compared with the current ‘best practice’ therapy, which entails more destructive surgery followed by implantation of an artificial lens.” In another study, a scientist at Cardiff University and Osaka University in Japan revealed they could use stem cells to regenerate several types of tissue in the eye at 1 go. When transplanted into a bunny, the tissue was shown to reverse blindness, paving the way for human trials, which could see the vision restored in people with a array of sight problems.
Professor Andrew Quantock, of Cardiff University, said: “This study indicates that different kinds of human stem cells are able to accept the characteristics of the cornea, retina and lens. “Significantly, it shows that one cell type – the corneal epithelium – could be further increased in the laboratory and then transplanted into a rabbit’s eye at which it was practical, achieving recovered vision.” Around 4000 corneal grafts are performed by the NHS yearly, which rely on human organ donation. Prof Julie Daniels, of UCL, said: “These two studies illustrate the remarkable regenerative and therapeutic potential of stem cells. Lens regeneration might also prove to be possible in ageing adults.”