Italian researchers reported in 2010 that patients who had become blind or had other very severe damage to their corneas due to being splashed with chemicals received a reprieve. They received transplants of their stem cells and regained their vision. It was considered a huge success in the field of stem-cell therapy.
The researchers accomplished their results by removing a tiny amount of stem cell tissue from a patient’s eye that was not damaged, and used them to grow new corneal tissue. This tissue was then replace surgically. A further benefit was that because the stem cells had come from the patient’s own eyes, they did not need to take drugs to block the bodies natural tendency to reject foreign materials.
Published: New England Journal of Medicine, 6/24/2010
Researchers have implanted corneas made of genetically engineered collagen in patients for the first time. Potentially, the millions of people on the waiting list for corneas from human donors could experience restored sight with these implants made from human genes and specialized yeast cells.
Ten patients in Sweden had the genetically engineered corneas inserted two years ago; the vision of six of the ten has improved. None of the patients experienced graft rejection or required long-term immune suppression, both of which can be factors for patients who receive corneas from human donors.
Study authors are optimistic about the development of biosynthetic corneas, but say that the technology is not fully mature. Right now, the lab-made material is very fragile making it appropriate for patients with surface corneal damage but not those with damage to the innermost layers of the cornea.