Replacement Eye Tissues Grown From Stem Cells to Restore Lost Vision!
A group of scientists from Ireland are growing corneal transplants from stem cells that can replace damaged eye tissues in people with eye sight loss due to accidents or diseases.
This project was made possible by the combined efforts of Dublin City University’s National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital and the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.
Dr. William Power of Royal Victoria hospital suggested this possibility, knowing that this technique was in use in the USA.
The institute developed methods to harvest and grow stem cell sheets that produce replacement corneal tissue, the outermost layer of corneal cells known as epithelium.
This corneal epithelium layer is a vulnerable tissue that can get burned easily during industrial accidents, due to some diseases and activities such as farming leading to loss of eye sight.
Stem cells used in this technique can be extracted from the undamaged eye or can be taken from a donor.
It was observed that the cells grew and formed a sheet about three cells deep in just 10-14 days time.
The corneal epithelial stem cells will be taken from the limbus, the area where the white of the eye meets the cornea and grown on a carrier membrane (amniotic membrane). Once the cells form sheets, these sheets will be transplanted to the patient’s eye and held in place with sutures. As the epithelial cells get incorporated into the eye, the carrier membrane gets dissolved.
The team is testing the resultant corneal epithelial cells. Once they are satisfied with the outcome, they will start growing these replacement tissues on a large scale and after getting authorization from the Irish Medicines Board. They will be stored and supplied by Irish Blood Transfusion Service.
Currently, the service is running the national tissue bank that supplies ocular (eye) tissues for surgical purposes only.