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Stem cells from the eye used to repair damaged corneas

Clinical research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh tested a stem-cell procedure recently described in the Science Translational Medicine journal. Stem cells from the limbus area within the undamgaged eyes of mice were collected. These cells were then replicated in a lab and then mixed into a protein gel known as fibrin. Researchers then spread this gel on damaged corneas in the mice and within four weeks, a clear cornea had been regenerated. Now, a doctor in India is using the results of this study to treat ten patients with scarred corneas. Limbus-derived stem cells from the patients' own eyes were used to treat corneal scars and the likelihood of rejection is greatly reduced because the patients are using their own stem cells. Only a mild anesthetic is used in the nonsurgical stem-cell procedure. Results of the procedure will not be known until the spring. This revolutionary procedure faces many hurdles, however, before it could become available in the U.S. Human clinical trials must be conducted and the procedure must be proven to be successful. Then the FDA must give its stamp of approval and the procedure must be cost effective when compared to the current therapy available, which is the corneal transplant.*

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