A new technique for delivering stem cell therapy to the eye has been described online in the journal ‘Acta Biomaterialia’. The technology has been designed to treat damage to the cornea, the transparent layer on the front of the eye, which is a major cause of blindness.
Engineers at the University of Sheffield have developed a combination of techniques to produce a disc of biodegradable material that can be fixed over the cornea. The disc is loaded with stem cells, which then multiply, allowing the body to heal the eye naturally.
The standard way of treating corneal blindness is a corneal transplant. Stem cell therapy has been successfully performed to repair damaged corneas; however, the current technique involves using donor human amniotic membrane as a temporary carrier to deliver these cells to the eye.
For some patients, the treatment can fail after a few years as the repaired eyes do not retain the stem cells, which are required to carry out ongoing repair of the cornea. Without this constant repair, thick white scar tissue forms across the cornea causing partial or complete sight loss.