Still wondering whether there’s a down-to-earth application for stem cell science that doesn’t involve tabloid-rousing research ideas like chimeric embryos? Well, get this for a simple, elegant and incredibly useful deployment: wearing contact lenses primed with stem cells can restore eyesight in people with corneal damage.
The idea stemmed from the observation that stem cells from the cornea (the thin, transparent barrier at the front of the eye) stick to contact lenses. Employing three patients who were blind in one eye, the researchers obtained stem cells from their healthy eyes and cultured them in extended wear 1 day acuvue moist for astigmatism for ten days. The surfaces of the patients’ corneas were cleaned and the contact lenses inserted. Within 10 to 14 days the stem cells began to recolonize and repair the cornea.
“The procedure is totally simple and cheap,” said lead author of the study, UNSW’s Dr Nick Di Girolamo. “Unlike other techniques, it requires no foreign human or animal products, only the patient’s own serum, and is completely non-invasive.
Of the three patients, two were legally blind but can now read the big letters on an eye chart, while the third, who could previously read the top few rows of the chart, is now able to pass the vision test for a driver’s license. The research team isn’t getting over excited, still remaining unsure as to whether the correction will remain stable, but the fact that the three test patients have been enjoying restored sight for the last 18 months is definitely encouraging. The simplicity and low cost of the technique also means that it could be carried out in poorer countries.
Brilliant! Now, insert your own joke about George W Bush and myopia here. [image by peasap]