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Friday, 25 December 2009

Scientists restore eye sight by stem cell treatment

In yet another medical achievement, British scientists have restored eyesight of a partially blind person using pioneering stem cell treatment.

Eye surgeons at the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI), has almost completely restored the vision of Russell Turnbull who was blinded in one eye by a chemical attack.

The attack, which badly burned and scarred Russell (38) as he intervened to stop a fight, left him with permanent blurred sight and pain whenever he blinked.

Now, however, his sight has been almost fully restored thanks to the new technique in which doctors regrown the outside membrane of his cornea from stem cells taken from his healthy eye.

According to the article published in journal Stem Cells, the new operation involved cutting away a millimetre squared section of his left eye completed with stem cells and growing it to 400 times that size in the laboratory.

The outer skin of the eye is then stitched onto the badly damaged cornea in place of the damaged membrane.

"Corneal cloudiness has been estimated to cause blindness in eight million people worldwide each year, Dr Francisco Figueiredo, Consultant Eye Surgeon at NESCI team, who co-led the project was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

"The stem cell treatment option is aimed at total cure rather than symptom relief only. This new treatment will alleviate patient suffering and remove the need for long term multiple medications as well as returning the patient to functional and social independence."

Dr Sajjad Ahmad, who developed the Newcastle method for culturing limbal stem cells, said "This study shows that stem cell research conducted in the laboratory can have a major impact on the quality of life of patients with corneal disease".

He said, "This work has been a team effort involving stem cell researchers and hospital doctors working together effectively."

A larger study involving 24 new patients is currently underway with funding from the UK's Medical Research Council.

Turnbull, a storeman, said: "The operation was a complete success and I now have my sight back. This really has given me my life back."

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