Stem Cells: Repairing Damaged Corneas

Corneal transplantation may be the only way to prevent blindness, but there is a shortage of donated corneas, so the queue for cornea transplantation is longer. For the first time, scientists from Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have succeeded in culturing stem cells on human corneas, and in the long run, this may result in people no longer needing donors to donate corneas.

In Sweden, about 500 corneal transplants are required each year, compared with about 100,000 worldwide. Damaged and cloudy corneas can blind patients, but they can be replaced by a healthy and transparent cornea. But this process requires a donor's cornea, which is in serious shortage. The same is true worldwide, especially where religious or political views often prevent people from using donated corneas.

Replacement of donated corneas

Scientists from Salger College have taken the first step towards the ultimate goal of replacing donor corneas with corneas grown from stem cells. Scientists Charles Hanson and Ulf Stenev used defective corneas from the eye clinic of Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Mlndal, Mundal. Their results, published in the Journal Acta Ophthalmologica, also showed that they could turn stem cells into epithelial cells after 16 days in the laboratory and 6 days in the cornea. It is the epithelial cells that maintain the transparency of the cornea.

Stem cell culture on human cornea for the first time

"Similar experiments have been done in animals, but this is the first time that stem cells have grown on damaged corneas in humans. It means that we are taking the first step towards the ultimate goal of using stem cells to treat damaged corneas, "Charles Hanson said. "If we can build a routine method for this, we can provide endless new corneas for patients who need corneas. Transplantation procedures and post-operative care will also become simpler, "Ulf Stenevi said.

Only a few clinics are able to have corneal transplants

Currently, only some clinics are able to carry out keratoplasty. In Sweden, many keratoplasty operations are performed in the ophthalmology clinic of the Affiliated Hospital of Saglinska University.
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