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 Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>