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Content archived on 2023-03-01

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Advances in curing corneal illnesses using stem cells

The University School of Clinical Medicine has developed a new technique for the treatment of corneal illnesses. It involves transplanting from the cornea stem cells which have previously been grown in the laboratory.

According to the explanation provided by Doctor Javier Moreno, director of Ophthalmology and Doctor Felipe Prósper, responsible for Cellular Therapy at the University School of Clinical Medicine, "the surgical technique employed is similar to that published in other countries. The importance here lies in the novel growth method for the culture of corneal stem cells. This culture system provides the advantage of achieving cells of particular quality, which influences recovery of the damaged cornea ". This surgical technique has been employed with a number of patients who have had stem cells implanted in the cornea using this new method, with the result that there is a clear improvement in the transparency of the cornea, quite notable in some cases, confirming the efficacy of this new method of cell culture growth. Description The cornea can become damaged due to a number of reasons: burns, blows, inflammatory pathologies of the cornea or herpes infections. When these ailments appear, the stem cells responsible for maintaining transparent the cornea surface are damaged and, thus the cornea becomes opaque and vision is impaired partially or even totally. The surgical technique involves the extraction of a small piece of the periphery from the cornea of the healthy eye where the stem cells are found and the subsequent growth in culture in the laboratory and finally, their implantation in the damaged eye. The growth culture technique devised at the Clinical University separates these stem cells from others in the cornea, selects those with the greatest possibilities of multiplication, and determines the most suitable moment with the greatest capacity for proliferation for their implantation into the damaged eye. Until now the treatment of this type of damage was a corneal transplant or the transplant of the amniotic membrane which does not have the capacity of producing transparency in the surface of the cornea. Now, by means of the growth of stem cells extracted from the cornea of a healthy eye, we can regenerate the surface of the damaged eyes cornea. In the cases treated with the new system to date, the damaged ocular surface has been partially or totally recovered and all cases have experienced positive development, taking into account that some patients have been under observation for more than 6 months. The only possible complication with this operation is that the stem cells do not reproduce in the damaged cornea and the eye is the same as before the operation. The Clinical University has carried out this technique in multidisciplinary co-operation with the Department of Ophthalmology, which selects the candidate patients and carries out the extraction from the donor and the implantation of the cultivated stem cells. The Cellular Therapy laboratory, under Dr. Felipe Prósper, is responsible for the growing of the cell cultures and the Cytology expert in the Pathological Anatomy service, Dr. Maria Dolores Lozano, carried out the analyses on the corneal cells before and after their implantation.