Researchers in Australia have come up with an outwardly simple but incredibly ingenious way of curing blindness caused by corneal damage: Take everyday contact lenses, already used by millions (including me), and infuse them with a patient's own stem cells. After wearing them for about 2 weeks, test subjects reported a seemingly miraculous restoration of sight. Is it that easy?
Most of the patients had only lost vision in one eye, so stem cells were harvested from their good eye and then plated onto contact lenses. After letting the stem cells repair damaged tissues, 2 of the 3 patients went from legally blind to being able to read some of an eye chart. The third patient actually regained enough sight to pass a driving exam. Researchers are still monitoring the stability of the treatment, but the results seem promising, if not mind blowing.
So far they've only targeted corneal damage, which is estimated to be the cause of sight loss in about 1.5 million people every year. The simplicity and relatively low cost of the procedure could make it available in more impoverished areas. Even a congenital defect in both eyes, aniridia, was cured using stem cells taken from a different part of the eye. Once the process is perfected and tested extensively, researchers think in the future they can use it to cure blindness that afflicts other parts of the eye. While they haven't mentioned curing regular near- or far-sightedness, I'm waiting for my own stem cell-laced contacts to cure my –4.0 crud eyesight without having to go under the laser!
Still, amazing stuff. For even more ways stem cells are changing the game, see our Essential Guide to Stem Cells from the June 2009 issue.
Above is a video explaining the technique. Warning: some clips of gruesome eye surgery are included, which make my own eyes water.
There is a group of physicians, patients and other interested people working together to get treatment with adult stem cells legalized in the U.S. as it should be. The organization was formed in response to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recent position that the adult stem cells found in everyone’s body are drugs. A person's cells (autologous) should be their own and NOT regulated by the FDA. That is one of the major reasons why most stem cell clinics are overseas. This stance is ridiculous and is costing millions of lives while sick Americans wait for the use of their own stem cells which would improve their quality of life. The FDA is not protecting us, but hurting us. Please ask your family and friends to sign up ("JOIN"), and get as many doctors to sign up as well. Please see The American Stem Cell Therapy Association (ASCTA) site and the associated Safe Stem Cells Now patient site. If enough people sign up and show a protest to this thing, the FDA will have to back down. They have no right to claim your own tissue is a "drug" to be regulated by them in the first place.
Patient Site: www.safestemcells.org
Physician Site: www.stemcelldocs.org
My gratitude to all the stem-cell researchers.Unfortunately the FDA will find a way to make a profit from this.You say it is simple and affordable,but here in America we know we will have to pay through the nose for the treatment;Welcome to America the country of creed and great sorrow.Cure is a dirty word to the big-boys that control the FDA.In the land of the free,we are all fooled thinking we actually matter;We do,but only if we are sick.Please do go to the site suggested above.Thank you bird5 for sharing.
A woman's body is her own but her stem cells are not? That's totally weird.
This is just awesome way to go wish we had that freedom in the US with stem cells
I think this treatment will be a great medical advancement. Most people in the U.S. do not have any problem with stem cell research. The thing that starts the controversy is the use of embryonic stem cells.
I sincerely hope that this treatment is approved for common use and allow those who would not normally be sighted to see (or see again).
This type of research into stem cell use is not a problem and not illegal. Never has been. You folks are using the wrong terminology.
Once again, great strides are being made with adult stem cells and absolutely no progress has been shown with embryonic. Please point one out to me if I am mistaken.
I'm happy to see other nations are taking the lead in stem cell research. It will take a few more decades until the United States Government wakes up and when they do, they will see more and more Americans going overseas to have thier lives saved. Shame.. Darn Shame.
How can those people in Washington sleep at night knowing that researchers all over the world are finding new ways to use stem cells to save lives? Someone tell me, please.
@swim_bub: The problem is the origin of embryonic stem cells. Not just their capabilities... It's been proven years ago that stem cells can "fix" many things. The advantage of embryonic cells is the fact we can "mold" them into anything we want, for anyone we want. Adult stem cells are much more limited in the applications (generally only helping the individual they came from...) Embryonic cells can help everyone, adult stem cells cant. That's a major advantage if you ask me! So to answer your progress question- researchers are limited in the states to only work on certain cells, therefore you hear about those breakthroughs more often. Simple as that; embryonic cells can do just as much and more than adult cells...
Nancy Reagan is also a vigorous supporter of stem cell research. She has argued expanded stem cell research could have helped her husband, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Nancy Reagan, spouse of the late President Ronald Reagan, went to the White House to meet with Michelle Obama and President Obama. She praised Obama for reversing the ban on stem cell research. The President had made some disparaging remarks about Mrs. Reagan and her attending a séance, and he later apologized, trying to repair credit. (Mrs. Reagan had consulted with astrologers during Reagan's term.) The remark was intended as tongue-in-cheek, but lost on many. She was honored at a White House lunch, part of the ceremonies was a new statue of Ronald Reagan. To read more about the issue, you may visit http://personalmoneystore.com/moneyblog/2009/06/02/nancy-reagan-barack-obama/.
I have just never heard of a single successful application of embryonic - worldwide. At the same time, I have heard of unsuccessful and deadly applications - uncontrolled tumorous growths and the like.
highdobb- I believe you are mistaken. While embryonic stem cells can develope into any type of cell, their dna is specific to the person they came from ( who no longer has use for them. ) For anyone else, there are problems with rejection. Those problems may get solved one day, but they have not been solved yet.
Adult stem cells, to be generally useful, must be reverted to a pluripotent state. Progress has been made in this area, but I'm not sure how much.
So the question of which is better comes down to which problem ( rejection vs. reverting to pluripotency ) is easier to solve. And which is easier might be different depending on the specific application.
Fortunately research and information is global (good job Australia) so that valuable efforts being hampered in one country will not slow down the work globally. Stem cell research is a great example of this and work continue unabated without the US.
Hopefully with the US more fully back into stem cell research, we can speed-up badly needed medical solutions and improve the quality of life for the earth.
Subject for more research:
Could this be used to rejuvenate older eyes (presbyopia) and eliminate the need for reading glasses?
I'd volunteer for the study in a heartbeat!!!!
Well done. Using the contact lens to grow a sheet of stem cells and then transferiing it to a previously differentiated substrate to create replacement cells is brilliant.
This looks like another step forward in using stem cells with previously differentiated substrates. Aces!
Very cool, it's only a matter of time before everything can be regenerated using our own body's cells... who knew we always had it in ourselves ;) LOL geeze that was cheesy =/
Can it help a cornea scarred by shingles?
I'd like to try that.
Ignorance is Bliss: I looked it up, you're wrong.
Example from NPR:
Can adult stem cells do everything embryonic stem cells do, but without controversy?
All stem cells have certain capabilities. They can divide and renew themselves for long periods; they are unspecialized (which means they are not a specific type of cell); and they have the ability to give rise to specialized cells.
Embryonic stem cells are obtained from human embryos. They have the capacity to turn into any cell type in the body. Adult stem cells have been found in some mature human tissues, including the brain and bone marrow. There is a scientific debate over whether their ability to become specialized is limited to their tissue of origin, or whether they can turn into other types of tissue.
Adult stem cells have proven their value to medicine. For example, bone marrow transplants are routinely used to treat some cancers and blood diseases. But it's unlikely that bone marrow stem cells can replace all of the different types of cells that are damaged by disease. Embryonic stem cells are the only ones that are likely to do that.
This is a great medical achievement. Not sure how I feel about stems cells though. It has great positives, but feel like we are playing god here.
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ryan-t: We've been playing god roles for a while if you ask me, including inception.
I can see that lots of people now are not like to use contact lenses, it not good for their eyes.
It means that the stem cells into the contact Lens inside? This is a good method, which enables people do not accept the same surgery can restore vision.I know the market there are many high-tech contact lenses,You can go and see www.firmoo.com
Fortunately research and information is global (good job Australia) so that valuable efforts being hampered in one country will not slow down the work globally. Stem cell research is a great example of this and work continue unabated without the US. www.mmohut.com
Stem cell research is a very exciting area where we are likely to see huge leaps in the medical field over the next few years. Although its been around since the 60's when it was first discovered by Canadian scientists it only really had remarkable advancement in the past few years because of technology. I think although there are many ethical arguments against its development the good that can actually come from the technology far outweighs the negative side. Hopefully we will see stem cell use extend from bone marrow transplants over the next few years to all the other fields that are being experimented with at the moment.
By providing the raw material for virtually every kind of human tissue, new treatments for a wide range of human diseases including diabetes, heart disease, some forms of cancer, and Parkinson's disease can now be developed.
This research also benefits the study of development events that cannot be studied directly in a human embryo, which would cause major clinical consequences such as birth defects, infertility and pregnancy loss. www.aresvista.com
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These stem cells will certainly revolutionize the medical world. It will regenerate all of them starting. Any body.
That's good news to all blinds friend.Hope it come out soon,and cheap enough.
Now more and more poor eye sight, long-term computer use in the office environment
I can't wait! I really would love to repair my eyes