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Tissue created from stem cells used to improve vision successfully

20/02/2019By Callum Glennen
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Researchers have claimed a breakthrough following the successful use of stem cells to repair eye tissue and improve vision among patients with limbal stem cell deficiency. As part of the project, organ donor stem cells were used to create tissue, which was then transplanted to patients as part of a randomised clinical trial.

Led by the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, researchers began by isolating stem cells from the corneas of people who donated their eyes after death. The stem cells were then grown into tissue, which was then transplanted to eight people of a 16-person group. Both groups were given eye drops and medication to suppress their immune system.

Over the course of 18 months, patients who received the stem cell implants showed signs of significant repair of the ocular surface, which was not seen among the control patients. Both groups showed improved vision, which researchers say warrants further investigation.


“The findings from this small study are very promising and show the potential for safe stem cell eye surgery as well as improvements in eye repair.”
Baljean Dhillon, The University of Edinburgh

Researchers on the project have claimed that this is a landmark study, and paves the way for further donor trials to be planned. Researchers also claimed this is also the first time that stem cells have been used this way in a randomised, clinical trial.

“The findings from this small study are very promising and show the potential for safe stem cell eye surgery as well as improvements in eye repair,” Professor Baljean Dhillon, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, at The University of Edinburgh, said.

The next step for researchers will be to further examine how stem cells could promote tissue repair for other ocular conditions.

The research was published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, and was funded by UK Stem Cell Foundation, Scottish Enterprise and the Chief Scientist Office, part of Scottish Government Health Directorates.






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