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In an exciting new study, researchers have discovered a way to collect cells for the regeneration of corneal tissue - the clear membrane covering the pupil that directs light into the back of the eye.
The research team from Boston reported that purified human stem cells were used to improve long-term vision in mice. Currently, the team is waiting for FDA-approval to begin patient clinical trials.
This collaborative research effort was led by Natasha Frank, MD
, and Markus Frank, MD
, using work done at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute, Boston Children's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.
In some people blood vessels grow onto the cornea, vision clouding known as corneal blindness results. This condition is caused when limbus stem cells, located behind the cornea, are destroyed by injury, infection or autoimmune disease. Outcomes are inconsistent, but limbal stem cell transplants from an uninjured eye or deceased organ donor have had promising results.
"Previously published work on limbal epithelial cell grafts showed that when more than three percent of transplanted cells were stem cells, transplants were successful - less than three percent and the transplants were not," said HSCI Affiliated Faculty member Natasha Frank.
"The question in the field then was whether we could enrich the limbal stem cells. But until this study there was no specific marker that could isolate these cells," added Frank.