New Less-Invasive Cataract Surgery Using Stem Cells
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and those in China have found a potentially new and less invasive form of cataract surgery. They successfully used stem cells to restore vision in babies born with a congenital cataract condition. The surgery is providing newborns with more than just vision as light is needed for proper brain development and growth.
“We need light to enter into the eyes at a young age to get proper brain function, otherwise, information does not get transferred to the developing brain.”
Instead of removing both the lens and supporting capsule, doctors were able to leave the capsule which allowed it to regenerate a new lens with help from stem cells. These cells, known as endogenous stem/progenitor cells, repopulated the damage lens and made using artificial ones unnecessary.
“… they were able to leave the lens epithelial stem cells, also called LECs, intact. These LECs regenerated the eye’s lens in the children, eliminating the need for implants,” the article said.
Now, the question remains if this procedure will work for adult eyes suffering from cataracts, which is a main cause of blindness in older Americans.
The researchers say they are hopeful this new procedure will in fact work in the aging population as cataract cases increase. However, this will take four to five more years of testing as performing the surgery on newborns is quite different than performing cataract surgery on adults. The regenerative capacity of these stem cells differs from infants to adults, and more studies on more eyes are needed before concluding this surgery will work for older patients.