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Revolutionary Stem Cell Breakthrough Restores Vision Post Eye Injury

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Revolutionary Stem Cell Breakthrough Restores Vision Post Eye Injury
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A groundbreaking stem cell therapy has shown promising results in repairing vision after eye injuries. In a phase 1 clinical trial, four patients with severe chemical burns to their eyes underwent a therapy based on their own stem cells. Even without further treatment, two of the patients reported significant improvements in their vision after a year of follow-up. The other two patients were able to undergo corneal transplants, which were previously not an option due to the severity of their injuries.

The therapy, called cultivated autologous limbal epithelial cell (CALEC) transplantation, involves developing a tissue graft from a small biopsy of stem cells taken from the patient’s healthy eye. Since the cells are taken from the patient’s own body, there is no risk of rejection. The harvested limbal stem cells play a crucial role in preserving the cornea, the transparent outer layer of the eye that light passes through first. Patients with eye injuries often have damage to the limbal area, preventing normal cell regeneration.

Traditional treatments for eye damage involve transplanting a healthy cornea from a donor eye, but this is not an option for individuals with significant damage. Alternative methods, such as donor limbal tissue grafts or transplanting healthy eye cells, also have limitations. The CALEC transplantation approach addresses these limitations by using a minimal amount of healthy eye stem cell tissue to grow a larger layer of cells. Once transplanted onto the injured eye’s surface, these cells facilitate the regeneration of healthy tissue. This restoration allows patients to receive a conventional corneal transplant, which some patients in the trial did not require.

The phase 1 trial included four male patients aged 31 to 52 years. One patient did not experience improved vision but was able to receive a cornea transplant after his eye surface healed. Another patient had a successful transplant three years later after an initial biopsy failed to produce a viable stem cell graft. The other two patients experienced significant improvement in vision, reaching 20/30 vision and not requiring a corneal transplant.

The procedure’s short-term feasibility and safety were also proven, as all patients’ biopsied eyes healed without complications and vision returned within four weeks. The research team is now completing the next phase of the clinical trial to further evaluate the efficacy of the CALEC procedure. The findings of this study offer hope to patients with untreatable vision loss and pain resulting from major cornea injuries. CALEC therapy could potentially fill a crucial treatment gap for those with chemical burns and other injuries that prevent them from receiving a cornea transplant.

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