Jan. 28 (UPI) -- New stem cell research may bring renewed hope for people who suffer from vision problems.
Researchers transplanted eye tissue created from stem cells into the eyes of patients with a condition that causes blindness, according to a study published Monday in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Just 18 months after the laser-based surgery, the patients' sight greatly improved.
"The findings from this small study are very promising and show the potential for safe stem cell eye surgery as well as improvements in eye repair," Baljean Dhillon, a professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Edinburgh's Center for Clinical Brain Sciences, said in a press release.
The condition, called limbal stem cell deficiency, or LSCD, is caused by eye damage usually from heat or chemicals. It can also be caused by a disease known as aniridia. The condition leads to scarring and severe vision loss in both eyes, as well as chronic pain and redness.
"Our next steps are to better understand how stem cells could promote tissue repair for diseases that are extremely hard to treat and if, and how, they could help to restore vision," Dhillon said.
The National Institutes of Health say about six million people worldwide to have LSCD.
This latest study has laid the groundwork for future research that could lead to successful cornea repair, researchers say.
"Clinical studies such as these help us to understand how complex new cellular therapies may be able to complement existing medical approaches in restoring function to damaged tissues and organs,"said Marc Turner, medical director of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and a professor of cellular therapy at the University of Edinburgh.