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Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice

A study just released shows stem cells injected into the eyes of mice with defective corneas returned the corneas to a more normal appearance. Researchers hope the stem cell procedure might one day be an alternative to corneal transplants in humans. About 40,000 such transplants are done each year in the United States. Several years ago, using human cadavers, James Funderburgh, an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh and his colleagues collected stem cells from the stroma, a matrix of collagen fibers that gives the cornea its strength. After growing stem cell cultures in the lab, the researchers injected the stem cells into the eyes of mice bred to have defective corneas that mimic scar tissue in humans. After three months, the stem cells had regenerated the collagen fibers, making the damaged corneas in the mice look normal, the researchers reported. After one year, the mice corneas still appeared normal.

A study just released shows stem cells injected into the eyes of mice with defective corneas returned the corneas to a more normal appearance. Researchers hope the stem cell procedure might one day be an alternative to corneal transplants in humans. About 40,000 such transplants are done each year in the United States. Several years ago, using human cadavers, James Funderburgh, an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh and his colleagues collected stem cells from the stroma, a matrix of collagen fibers that gives the cornea its strength. After growing stem cell cultures in the lab, the researchers injected the stem cells into the eyes of mice bred to have defective corneas that mimic scar tissue in humans. After three months, the stem cells had regenerated the collagen fibers, making the damaged corneas in the mice look normal, the researchers reported. After one year, the mice corneas still appeared normal.

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