New hope in stem cell therapy for blindness

by Pushpa Narayan ,  India Times | 2010-07-23

CHENNAI: Stem cell transplant in eyes have remained a challenge for surgeons because of the infection risk the scaffold' used to hold the cells. Now, a procedure tested in rabbits by Sankara Nethralaya and Nichi-in Bio Sciences holds a new promise in scaffold-less transplant of stem cells with a higher success rate in humans.

The two institutions recently got a patent for the process and are now gearing up for human trials. The hospital is also looking for collaborations with research institutions for animal stem cell trials on other vital organs including heart, liver, kidney and pancreas.

Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different types of tissues such as muscle, blood, nerve, heart, or even brain during early life and growth. Stem cell therapy uses such cells into damaged tissue for repair and regeneration. For those blinded due to ocular surface damage (caused by burns and chemical injuries) stem cell therapy is often the only option. "We have been using scaffolds such as amniotic membrane (tissue discarded after child birth) because without them stem cells will be washed away by body fluids. These scaffolds were causing rejection and infection," said Dr HN Madhavan, professor of microbiology and president, Vision Research Foundation, Sankara Nethralaya.

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