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Stem Cells and Cornea Repair

Major news outlets recently reported research demonstrating that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), a specific type of stem cell with unique properties, restored transparency to the cloudy corneas of laboratory mice.  The data, presented by researchers during the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in December 2009, suggests that transplantation of umbilical MSCs could be a potential treatment regimen for corneal disease – whether present at birth or acquired.  This study provides further evidence supporting the potential of umbilical MSCs for a variety of diseases.

Based on a U.S. News and World Report article about the study, those with corneal diseases may stand to benefit most if/when such a therapy were to become clinically available.  They wouldn’t need to wait for a donated cornea, which, as the article states, are in short supply, so the prospect of an alternative therapy would be helpful.

More than 80 clinical trials are already underway using MSCs, and doctors are enthusiastic about the results reported for therapies addressing several conditions, including stroke, heart attack, bone injuries and autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. In addition, because MSCs serve as the foundation of connective tissue, applications in treating common joint and sports injuries may be another potential application with widespread use.  MSCs are found in bone marrow, fat tissue, and the umbilical cord.

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