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Rare stem cells to regrow corneas and treat loss of vision

stem-cellScientists have discovered a way to regrow human corneal tissue using hard-to-find limbal stem cells known as ABCB5 molecule. Limbal stem cells reside in the eye's basal limbal epithelium or limbus and help maintain and regenerate corneal tissue. Their loss due to injury or disease is one of the leading causes of blindness. The researchers were able to use antibodies detecting ABCB5 to zero in on the stem cells in tissue from deceased human donors and used them to regrow anatomically correct, fully functional human corneas in mice. (Read: Be a superhero, be a stem cell donor save a life (Expert Interview))

Bruce Ksander, Ph.D. said that this finding would now make it much easier to restore the corneal surface and it was a very good example of basic research moving quickly to a translational application. This research is also one of the first known examples of constructing a tissue from an adult-derived human stem cell. Markus Frank said that ABCB5 allowed limbal stem cells to survive and protected them from apoptosis (programmed cell death). (Read: Stem cell treatment a boon for burn victims)

The research is published in the journal Nature.

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What is stem cell therapy?

Recently, Hrithik Roshan helped a quadriplegic gain a new lease at life. John Julius, a young man who had been bed ridden for 12 years, can now sit up, has a job and has married the love of his life, all thanks to the support that Hrithik gave him. The actor first met John while he was preparing for his role as a quadriplegic, in the movie 'Guzaarish'. A condition that was thought to be incurable can now be treated by stem cell therapy and rehabilitation. Here is what you should know about this treatment:

What is it?

Stem cells are derived from human umbilical cord or bone marrow. Also called the 'basic cells' of our body they have the power to mature into any type of tissue cell in the body. Stem cell therapy is based on the principle that stem cells migrate to the site of the injury and transform themselves to form new tissue cells that can replace the damaged ones. They have the capacity to multiply and renew themselves almost indefinitely and can form mature nerve cells, muscle cells and blood cells. In this therapy they are taken out of the body, and kept under artificial conditions (also called as induction of the stem cells) where they mature into the type of cells that are required to heal a particular part of the body.

There are two types of treatments:

Autologous stem cell therapy: This method uses the patient's own stem cells (adult stem cells) which are obtained from the blood, bone marrow etc.

Allogenic stem cell therapy: This therapy uses donated stem cells. The disadvantage in this therapy is that in a number of cases these donor stem cells may be rejected. This method of stem cell therapy has not yet been legalised in India.

How is it done?

The entire procedure can be broken down into three steps: bone marrow collection, laboratory processing and stem cell implantation (bone marrow stem cell or cord derived stem cell). Your doctor may administer a 'stem cell stimulant' medication to enhance the transplantation process. Read more about Stem cell therapy what you ought to know

With inputs from ANI

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