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Extended wear contact lenses coated in corneal stem cells have been used to successfully restore vision in three patients. Doctors with the project describe the treatment as cheap, simple, and highly promising..  (Source: GizMag)
File this one under cool -- stem cells cure blindness

While electronic eyeballs may eventually be a solution to restore sight for the visually impaired, or even to enhance vision for those with normal eyesight, they still are very crude and may have a long way to go.  In a classic race between electronics and biotechnology, it appears that biotechnology may have caught up with an incredible solution to restoring vision.

Scientists and the University of New South Wales in Australia cultured corneal stem cells on extended wear contact lenses.  They then cleaned the corneas of three patients -- two of whom were legally blind and one with limited vision (they could read the biggest row of the vision chart) -- and had the patient start wearing the lens. 

Amazingly, within 10 to 14 days the stem cells had reentered the cornea and began to recolonize it.  UNSW’s Dr Nick Di Girolamo describes, "The procedure is totally simple and cheap.  Unlike other techniques, it requires no foreign human or animal products, only the patient’s own serum, and is completely non-invasive."

The two legally blind patients can now read the top row of a vision chart, while the vision impaired patient can read enough of the chart to get their driver's license.

The technique still has unknowns.  While the patients have regained vision, lasting for over 18 months, there's a chance the gains won't last.  While the cornea has no blood supply and gets its oxygen from the air, but it remains to be seen whether the blind patient's tear fluid is sufficient to sustain the new eye tissue in the long term.

Still, Dr. Di Girolamo says the technique looks promising and holds promise even to patients with damage to both eyes.  Dr. Girolamo states, "One of our patients had aniridia, a congenital condition affecting both eyes.  In that case, instead of taking the stem cells from the other cornea, we took them from another part of the eye altogether – the conjunctiva – which also harbors stem cells."

Corneal diseases are a leading cause of blindness.  According to the World Health Organization, damage to this delicate organ causes 1.5 million people to lose sight in one of their eyes every year.

The UNSW team is looking to expand the work to cover other types of ocular damage.  Previous research by other teams has shown that stem cells could potentially be used to grow entire eyeballs.  They also believe the technique could be applied to regrowing skin and other damaged tissues.

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RE: Stem cell source
By sinful on 6/4/2009 10:27:15 PM , Rating: 2
So then, the genetic dissimilarity with an embryonic stem cell and your own cells rises a plethora of issues. They may not respond to your body's signals the same way as the surrounding tissue, or even grow into the correct tissue model, which, again, results in cancer or aberrant tissue behavior. And with the threat of rejection always lurking around the corner, you also get the fun times of sparking auto-immune diseases.

Of course, it should be noted that rejection is an issue due to an extremely limited number of embryonic stem cell lines (as a result of the federal ban).

It's like saying blood transfusions have problems with rejection because, hey, you can't give someone with type A blood to someone with Type B blood....
... true, but given a sufficient supply of the varying embryonic stem cell lines, rejection is pretty much a non-issue.

You also didn't mention WHY the adult stems cells are less likely to form a tumor: it's because the adult stems cells die after a short period of time; embryonic stem cells do not.
That can cause problems, but it may give the possibility to solve different types of problems; i.e. certain perpetual degenerative conditions would need a constant influx of adult stem cells to "patch" the problem; embryonic stem cells could just "keep doing the job".

It also needs to be pointed out you're comparing a technology that's had bans on it & no federal money vs. a technology that's been relatively unhindered & received federal money.

In other words, it's foolish to judge the potential of a technology when it's been held back & unfunded.

Keep in mind that "at the beginning", Adult stem cells were considered poor and destined for failure, while Embryonic stem were pegged as having great potential.

Perhaps if the reverse were true, Embryonic stem cells would be curing cancer by now.

You just don't know.

RE: Stem cell source
By sinful on 6/4/2009 10:31:36 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps if the reverse were true, Embryonic stem cells would be curing cancer by now.

I meant that in the context of funding & bans;
if there were bans on Adult stem cell research and funding was given (and promoted) towards Embryonic Stem Cell research, perhaps people would be saying "ZOMG Adult Stem Cells=Fail, why did we even bother with such a failed idea?"

It's premature to judge either way.

RE: Stem cell source
By bill3 on 6/6/2009 7:19:25 AM , Rating: 2
There is no federal ban on stem cell research.

Oh wait, you mean in the USA only? As if every other country on earth doesnt exist? Now I got ya.

Indeed, virtually every country except the United States funds stem cell research at the federal level. So speaking of a "federal stem cell ban" is misleading at best.

Also, there never was any federal ban in the USA either, of course any private group and any state funded huge amounts of stem cell research, including California. None have created any treatments, though.

Also, of coursr there has been no ban in America roughly since Obama has been in office.

Blaming stem cell's failure on the short lived, former, incredibly limited USA federal research ban is illogical at best.

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