Scientists grow adult stem cells on contact lenses, treat blindness

A treatment for blindness using adult stem cells

A team at the Australian University of New South Wales has discovered a treatment that considerably improves the sight of patients with diseases of the cornea. Three people blind in one eye were successfully treated.

The method consists of removing stem cells from the patient’s healthy eye. These are then cultivated in a contact lens that is applied to the damaged eye for two weeks. The cells can thus attach themselves to the cornea in order to regenerate it. Significant improvements appear after several weeks. Eighteen months later they persist.

The team leader, Dr Nick Di Girolamo, insists on the fact that this method is simple to implement and very cheap. Hence it will be accessible even in third-world countries.

Furthermore, the researchers hope to be able to extend this technique to the other parts of the eye, such as the retina, and even to other organs. “If we can apply this procedure to the eye, I don’t see why it would not work with other major organs such as the skin, which behaves in a very similar way to the cornea”, affirms Dr Di Girolamo. A further advantage is that it does not raise any more ethical problems than ordinary grafts.