The new technology significantly reduces the risk that the transplanted tissue will be rejected.
Japanese scientists at Osaka University have managed to transplant a cornea that was grown from stem cells into the eye of a 40 year old woman at risk of developing blindness. After the operation, the patient’s eyesight improved, although this kind of operation will only become widely available in five years. Scientists are continuing clinical testing and are hoping to conduct corneal transplantation for another four patients by the end of this year.
The new approach has made it possible to grow a new cornea from stem cells extracted from another patient’s tissue. When developed tissue is transplanted, it is often rejected by the patient’s body, which can be avoided with this technique.
The patient in the study was diagnosed with a deficiency of epithelial stem cells in her left eye, a condition linked with bad eyesight that can eventually lead to the development of complete blindness.
The doctors operated on the patient in July, and since then they have carefully monitored the woman’s condition without discovering any negative side effects. Scientists are certain that the positive effects of the operation will be permanent.
The process of creating a cornea for transplantation begins with reprogramming mature stem cells from the donor’s skin, which brings them back to an embryonic state. Because embryonic or stem cells can be transformed into cells of different types, scientists can also transform them into corneal cells.
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