07 September 2015

Corneal restoration will become more accessible

Vision can be restored with the help of cells from the oral cavity

Bioengineers led by specialists from the University of Oslo conducted a study that they hope will make the treatment of vision loss using stem cells more accessible, Infox reports.

The authors found out that limbal stem cells, which are used for these purposes, can be stored for one week at a temperature of 12 to 16 degrees Celsius. Currently, such treatment is carried out in clinics only near the centers where such cells are grown. There are only a few such centers in the world.

Limbal stem cells are located in the basal epithelium of the cornea of the eye (limba) and help maintain and repair corneal tissue. Without these cells, the cornea becomes cloudy and vision is impaired. The lack of these cells due to illness or injury is the main cause of vision loss.

Earlier this year, the European Medical Agency approved therapies related to the cultivation of limbal stem cells taken from the cornea in the laboratory. Moreover, this is the first method of using stem cells approved by this organization.

The use of stem cells for the treatment of severe vision problems associated with a lack of limbal stem cells is not a new method. It was first developed in the late 90s of the XX century. However, then the patient had to have one healthy eye, which served as a source of these cells. It was possible to take cells from close relatives of the patient, but in this case, immunosuppressive therapy was necessary, which often caused severe side effects.

Ten years ago, Japanese scientists made a real breakthrough in this direction – they conducted a study that showed that the cells of the oral mucosa can be turned into limbal cells. Currently, approximately 250 people have already undergone such treatment, when limbal cells are grown from cells taken from the patient's own mouth, and then transplanted into the cornea. Approximately 75% of patients were treated successfully – the patients' vision was restored and the pain disappeared.

Nevertheless, there has always been a problem of storing and transporting the material for transplantation – oral cavity cells.

"Currently, oral cavity cells are cultured for the treatment of vision loss in only a few specialized centers in the world. It is very important to understand how these cells can be stored and transported – then such therapy will become available to a much larger number of people. This is the question we have been dealing with," says Rakibul Islam, one of the authors of the study.

"It can be assumed that the optimal temperature for storing such cells is approximately 37 degrees Celsius. But our experiment has shown that this is not the case. The optimal temperature of their storage is from 12 to 16 degrees during the week. Moreover, we found out that the place of the oral cavity where these cells come from is also important for storage," the authors add (in a press release from the University of Oslo Using cells from the mouth to cure blindness – VM).

An article with the results of their research was published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology (Next-generation stem cell therapy poised to enter the EU market – VM).

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