Saturday, December 26, 2009

Stem cells used to treat blindness

From UPI:

NEWCASTLE, England -- Cultured stem cells from eyes helped improve the sight of eight patients with Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency, a painful, blinding disease, British doctors said.

The patients' own corneal cells were cultured and used to reduce corneal cloudiness from the disease, The North East England Stem Cell Institute, Newcastle, England, reported in a release Thursday.

Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency, LSCD, requires long-term, costly treatment with frequent hospital admissions. The advance of corneal stem cells may alleviate much of that and aid people with other cornea problems, said Dr. Francisco Figueiredo, a researcher at the institute.

"Corneal cloudiness has been estimated to cause blindness in 8 million people worldwide each year," he said. "A large number of ocular surface diseases, both acquired and congenital, share features of partial or complete LSCD."

Future research will test whether the stem cell therapy could be used to treat conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, he said.