Blind World

Stem Cell Research.
India forges ahead with stem cells for eye repair.

February 20, 2004.

By KS Jayaraman,
Source: SciDev.Net.

[HYDERABAD] Stem cell therapy is yet to become a routine hospital practice in the West. But an eye institute in India has set up a dedicated centre for using adult stem cells to cure blindness in people with damage to the outer surface of their eyes.

The centre at the L. V. Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad which was inaugurated last month by Indian President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam will use a new approach to repairing eyes. The technique involves using stem cells derived from two different parts of the eye the conjunctiva (the membrane that lines the eye) and the limbus (the area next to the cornea, the transparent front of the eye).

Growing limbal stem cells in the laboratory and transplanting them to the cornea is not new; the technique was pioneered in the late 1990s. But the LVPEI team says that their technique of culturing stem cells from the limbus as well as the conjunctiva allows the entire outer surface of damaged eyes to be repaired in one go, an improvement on methods that repair only the cornea.

More than 180 patients with eye damage have been treated using stem cells in a clinical trial at the Institute. Forty of these patients with particularly severe eye damage have so far been treated using the co-cultures, and are now being monitored. Approximately 50 per cent of cases show successful results, which is very encouraging, says Geeta Kashyap, a scientist at LVPEI.

"LVPEI's work in this area is commendable," says Arun Gulani, director of corneo-plastic surgery and refractive surgery at the University of Florida, United States. "I think it is a very promising field with widespread applications," he says, but cautions that this work needs to have "adequate follow-up".

End of article.

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