According to a recent study, a Japanese woman with a corneal disease has become the first person in the world undergo corneal transplant surgery made from induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs).
The cornea is a transparent layer that covers the eye. It contains stem cells that repair damage and maintain vision. These stem cells can be lost through injury or disease, which can then cause blurry vision and lead to blindness.
As part of a clinical trial, the team performed a cornea transplant on a woman in her 40s with a corneal disease that caused her to lose these stem cells. The induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) used in the transplant were taken from an adult donor, reprogrammed into an undifferentiated state, and then induced to develop into corneal stem cells.
The Japan Health Ministry, in March, gave permission to perform the procedure on the patient and three others. The first transplant was performed July 25, and the second transplant is planned for later this year. Researchers claim they have only conducted the first operation and are continuing to monitor the patient carefully.
The patient continued to have a clear cornea in the month following the transplant, and her vision improved. The researchers expect her restored vision to last a lifetime.
This new treatment could become a practical way to restore vision in patients who would otherwise have to wait for a corneal transplant from a deceased donor. According to a survey, about 12.7 million people require a corneal transplant worldwide. The iPSC cornea developers say they hope to have their procedure performed in clinics in five years.
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