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Natural cure: Scientists create stem cell contact lens

Published time: December 07, 2012 01:32
Edited time: December 07, 2012 05:32
AFP Photo / Michael Urban

AFP Photo / Michael Urban

Researchers have found a better and a cheaper way to restore human sight by implanting a contact lens containing stem cells that will repair the human cornea.

­Scientists from the University of Sheffield hope that the biodegradable implant disc's stem cells will multiply in the eye, thus rebuilding the transparent layer on the front of the eye, known as the cornea, the degradation of which is one of the major causes of blindness in the world, a study published in Acta Biomaterialia journal revealed.

Since stem cells have the ability to renew themselves through mitotic cell division and differentiation into a diverse range of specialized cell types, scientists hope that it will allow the eye to heal naturally as new implants are designed to form thin membranes by grafting the cells onto the eye itself.

Traditional treatment for cornea damage includes transplanting stem cells into the eye using donated human membranes. But in some cases this procedure fails, as in time the repaired eyes lose the retention of these stem cells, which are required to carry out repairs of the cornea.

What makes the new research different is that the new biodegradable lens contains small pockets of stem cells that protect them and serve as a constant repair utility.

"The material across the center of the disc is thinner than the ring, so it will biodegrade more quickly, allowing the stem cells to proliferate across the surface of the eye to repair the cornea," Ílida Ortega Asencio, from Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering, was quoted as saying in Daily Mail.

Without stem cells, thick white scar tissue develops in the cornea, causing partial or complete sight loss.

The clinical trials are expected to begin in India as "the overall treatment using these discs will not only be better than current treatments, it will be cheaper as well," Frederick Claeyssens from University of Sheffield said.