Eye disease successfully treated with stem cell therapy
21 January 2010
The North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI) has
reported the first successful treatment of eight patients with Limbal
Stem Cell Deficiency (LSCD) using the patients' own stem cells without
the need of suppressing their immunity.
The report was published in the journal Stem Cells .
LSCD is a painful, blinding disease that requires long-term, costly
treatment with frequent clinic visits and intensive hospital admissions.
The vision loss due to LSCD makes this disease not only costly, but
often requires social support due to the enormous impact on patients'
quality of life. This is further magnified by the fact that LSCD mostly
affects young patients.
Dr. Francisco Figueiredo, a member of the NESCI team, said, "Corneal
cloudiness has been estimated to cause blindness in 8 million people
(10% of total blindness) worldwide each year. A large number of ocular
surface diseases, both acquired and congenital, share features of
partial or complete LSCD." Chemical burns to the eye are the most common
cause of LSCD.
Professor Lako said: "This study demonstrates that transplantation of
cultured corneal stem cells without the use of animal cells or products
is a safe and effective method of reconstructing the corneal surface and
restoring useful sight in patients with unilateral LSCD.
"This research shows promise to help hundreds of people regain their
sight. These exciting results offer a new treatment and hope for people
Professor Michael Whitaker FMedSci, Co-Director of NESCI, which is a
collaboration between Durham and Newcastle Universities, Newcastle NHS
Foundation Trust and other partners, said: "Stem cells from bone marrow
have been used successfully for many years to treat cancer and immune
disease, but this is the first successful stem cell therapy using stem
cells from the eye without animal products to treat disease, an
important step forwards for the clinic.
"Because the early results look so promising, we are thinking hard
now about how to bring this treatment rapidly into the clinic as we
complete the necessary clinical trials, so that the treatment can be
shared with all patients that might benefit."
"The Newcastle team has obtained some very impressive results in
patients following stem cell transplants to repair the surface of the
cornea. It is hugely exciting to see that a type of stem cell therapy
can now be applied routinely to treat a form of blindness," said
Professor Robin Ali, FMedSci, Department of Genetics, UCL Institute of
"These results also provide us with further encouragement to develop
stem cell therapies to repair the retina in order to treat conditions
such as age related macular degeneration."
A larger study involving 24 new patients is currently underway with
funding from the UK's Medical Research Council.
1. Kolli S, Ahmad S, Lako M, Figueiredo F. Successful clinical
implementation of corneal epithelial stem cell therapy for treatment of
unilateral limbal stem cell deficiency. Stem Cells, Volume 9999
Issue 999A. Published online 10 Dec 2009.DOI: 10.1002/stem.276