World's first: Doctors use 'reprogrammed' stem cells to repa
Scientists create induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by reprogramming adult cells. This process converts the cells into embryonic-like cells, which means that they can develop into any other type of human cell, including nerve, pancreatic, liver, and corneal cells.

Although iPS cells have great potential to treat a range of conditions, they have been slow to make it from the laboratory to the clinic. In carrying out a new groundbreaking procedure, ophthalmologist Kohji Nishida from Osaka University in Japan has taken the next step.

Corneal repair

The cornea is the transparent front section of the eye, which covers the iris and pupil. Stem cells in the cornea ensure that it becomes refreshed and repaired when necessary, keeping it clear so that light can enter.

However, if these stem cells sustain damage due to disease or injury, maintenance of the cornea is no longer possible, and this can lead to corneal blindness. Individuals with damaged corneas must wait for donor tissue to become available, and — as with any organ transplant — this can be a lengthy process.

The person who underwent the recent surgery has a genetic condition that affects the stem cells of the cornea. Her vision was blurry, and she would eventually have lost her sight.

The researchers implanted thin sheets of iPS cells into the patient's eye, hoping that they would take root and fill in the gaps that her missing corneal stem cells had left.

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