Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

AN EYE FOR AN EYE: Using stem cells to treat damaged eyes and a rare skin disorder

24.10.2007
Stem cells can be used to grow new corneal tissue and, together with gene therapy, treat a rare genetic skin disorder

Doctors and scientists in Italy have shown how stem cells can be used to treat damaged eyes and, in combination with gene therapy, a rare and debilitating skin disease.

Professor Michele De Luca of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia described the work to an international meeting of stem cell scientists in Milan (30 Sep – 2 Oct, “Challenges in Stem Cell Differentiation and Transplantation”) organised by the European Science Foundation’s EuroSTELLS stem cell programme in conjunction with the National Research Council of Italy.

Stem cell therapy involves the use of stem cells – ‘blank’ cells (‘toti- or ‘pluripotent’) that have not differentiated into specialised cells – to generate new tissues or organs. While widespread stem cell therapy lies some way in the future, Professor De Luca pointed out that it has been used already for many years in the treatment of burns. Many tissues of the body are continuously regenerated by their own population of stem cells. In the skin, such cells are called holoclones and for decades doctors have taken small samples of these cells from burns patients and cultured the cells into new skin that can be grafted onto the wound.

... more about:
»Cornea »Eye »Rare »Stem »damaged »disorder »limbus »skin »treat

Professor De Luca’s team showed that cells of the transparent outer covering of the eye, the cornea, are constantly being replaced by new cells deriving from an area surrounding the cornea called the limbus. The cells differentiate into corneal epithelium and migrate to the cornea.

“If the cornea is damaged severely by a chemical burn or infection, for example, it can become opaque and necessitates a transplant,” Professor De Luca told the meeting. “However, a transplant will only be successful if the patient’s limbus has remained intact so that it can continue to replenish the new cornea.”

For many years doctors did not understand why some transplants failed – because they did not appreciate the requirement for the limbus.

In cases where the limbus is destroyed there has been little hope to restore the patient’s sight. Professor De Luca’s team decided to take a leaf from the way that burns are treated and grow a new cornea from limbar stem cells taken from the healthy eye.

By removing a small sample of these cells it was possible to culture a new cornea and graft it on to the damaged eye. The team showed that of 240 patients who were operated on in this way, the cornea regenerated successfully in 70% of cases.

The researchers then turned their attention to a rare but debilitating genetic disease of the skin resulting in a syndrome known as Epidermolysis Bullosa, in which the skin is highly fragile and prone to blistering due to faulty proteins that effectively anchor the surface layers of skin to the body.

In one form of the disease there is a mutation in one of these anchoring proteins called laminin 5. The Italian researchers obtained consent to carry out a small-scale trial of a novel gene therapy using skin holoclones on one patient, a 37-year-old male, on small part of his body .

“Because the patient’s body was so badly affected it was difficult to isolate any stem cells from his skin,” Professor De Luca told the conference. “Most people have between seven and ten per cent of holoclones. Our man had none. Eventually we found a few in the palms of his hand and cultured them from a biopsy.”

The team then used gene therapy to insert the correct laminin gene into the growing cells and grafted the new tissue onto the patient’s body. The graft was successful and after several months the skin remained to all intents normal, without the blistering and flaking.

“This demonstrates that it is possible to use stem cells in gene therapy for genetic skin disorders,” Professor De Luca said.

EuroSTELLS is the European Collaborative Research (EUROCORES) programme on “Development of a Stem Cell Tool Box” run by the European Medical Research Councils (EMRC) Unit in the European Science Foundation. ESF provides scientific coordination and support for the networking activities of funded scientists through the EC FP6 Programme, under contract no. ERAS-CT-2003-980409. Research funding is provided by the participating national organisations.

Sofia Valleley | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esf.org

Further reports about: Cornea Eye Rare Stem damaged disorder limbus skin treat

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

nachricht Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed
18.01.2017 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Rabies viruses reveal wiring in transparent brains

19.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Global threat to primates concerns us all

19.01.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>