Breakthrough stem cell treatment gives man his sight back

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London, Dec 23 (ANI): Russell Turnbull, who could not see with his right eye following a chemical attack 15 years ago, has regained vision after a ground breaking stem cell treatment.

Scientists and eye surgeons at the North East England Stem Cell Institute restored light to the eyes of eight patients including Turnbull using their own stem cells.n 1994 a scuffle in Newcastle saw ammonia being thrown at Turnbull, which hit his right eye and blinded it.

The chemical severely damaged the cornea stem cells leaving him with a condition known as Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency (LSCD).

The treatment of the painful LSCD is extensive and quite expensive.

"I was in agony instantly, my eye was clamped shut," the Independent quoted Turnbull, as saying.

"I went home and my mum tried to wash out the chemical and then I went to hospital."

He continued: "I was in hospital for two weeks and eventually I was able to open the eye again.

"It was like looking through scratched Perspex. My eye was sensitive to light, it was constantly watering. I was unable to drive as any bright light would cause me pain.

"The man who attacked me was caught and sentenced to six months in jail. But I later learned that he had served only two months of that sentence."

After 12 years of pain and darkness in one eye, Turnbull volunteered for the treatment by the team from North East England Stem Cell Institute.

The experts extracted a small amount of stem cells from the good eye and cultured them in a lab.

When these cells were implanted in the damaged eye, vision was restored.

This is the first time in the world that animal products have not been used to grow stem cells. It also does not use drugs to suppress immunity.

Turnbull said: "I had a lot of anger inside me for a long time after the attack. I lost my job because of it and I had always been a keen jet-skier, which I wasn't able to do."

"It ruined my life and I went through a really difficult time.

"But then this treatment came along, I can't thank the staff at the RVI (Royal Victoria Infirmary) enough."

He added: "This has transformed my life, my eye is almost as good as it was before the accident.

"I'm working, I can go jet-skiing again and I also ride horses. I have my life back thanks to the operation."

The method is also effective for patients whose have damaged their eyes with contact lenses or in industrial accidents.

Lead researcher Dr Figueiredo said: "Corneal cloudiness has been estimated to cause blindness in eight million people world wide each year.

"A large number of ocular surface diseases, both acquired and congenital, share features of partial or complete LSCD."

Dr Figueiredo explained: "Chemical burns to the eye are the most common cause of LSCD. The stem cell treatment option is aimed at total cure of LSCD rather than symptom relief only.

"This new treatment will alleviate patient suffering and remove the need for long term multiple medications as well as returning the patient to functional and social independence."

Professor Lako, who also worked on the project, said: "This study demonstrates that transplantation of cultured corneal stem cells without the use of animal cells or products is a safe and effective method of reconstructing the corneal surface and restoring useful sight in patients with unilateral LSCD.

"This research shows promise to help hundreds of people regain their sight. These exciting results offer a new treatment and hope for people with LSCD."

The research has recently appeared in the American Journal, Stem Cells. (ANI)

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