Doctors Try To Heal Eye Injury With Stem Cell
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07 September 2010
By Pushpa Narayan
Hopeful That Cornea Of A Patient Damaged In Cracker Blast Could Be Revived With The Help Of Stem Cells
Almost six months ago, 34–year–old Karthika (name changed) was blinded in one eye from a cracker blast. Though the doctors at the ESI hospital initially said there was no proven technique to reverse her blindness, they kept flipping through medical journals in the hope of a solution. The search stopped at the American Journal of Opthalmology. It had an article on how a patient with similar injuries was treated with stem cells for vision restoration in Toronto.
"We will have to wait for two months to see if the patient will get her vision back. We hope the cells will multiply and revive the cornea. If we manage to do what the doctors in Toronto did, it will be a great hope for the blind suffering from similar trauma," he said.
Stem cells have the potential to develop into different types of tissues such as muscle, blood, nerve, heart or even brain during early life and growth. Stem cell therapy uses such cells to regenerate damaged tissues.
For those blinded due to ocular surface damage (caused by burns and chemical injuries), stem cell therapy is the only option. "If one eye is damaged, then doctors use stem cells from the cornea of the other eye. These cells are located in an area called limbus. But this technique has not been proven and the success rate is low. There are also chances of losing vision in the eye from which the stem cells are drawn," Dr Raja said.
"Though the procedure we used too has not been recommended yet, it’s less complicated. So we decided to take the risk," he said.
Karthika, who was working in the garment industry in Bangalore, had come to the Chennai hospital two and half months ago. The doctors then submitted a proposal for the new therapy to the ethics committee of the hospital. The committee approved the procedure and the hospital approached the Government General Hospital for stem cell isolation.
Since last week, the patient has been given five doses of internal growth factor injections to increase her white blood cells (WBC) count. Stem cells are taken from WBC.
On Monday, about 250 ml of blood was drawn from her at the Government Hospital blood bank. "Using a special device we separated the stem cells from the white blood cells. We retrieved 30 ml of stem cells, and the remaining blood was given back to the patient," said Dr K Selvarajan, who heads the blood bank. The stem cells were then handed over to the doctors for injecting into the patient.