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New Technique Regenerates Human Lens after Cataract Surgery

Researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine developed an approach towards removing congenital cataracts in infants that allows existing stem cells to regenerate the lens, resulting in fewer complications and superior visual function than current techniques allow.

This new technique uses endogenous stem cells, cells already in place at the injury site rather than cultured or transplanted, to regenerate lens cells. In a typical cataract operation, lens epithelial stem cells are removed. However, by keeping the lens membrane in place, the growth of new lens cells can be directed into a functioning lens.

The results of a small human trial, published in the March 9 issue of Nature, compared the outcomes of 12 infants under the age of 2 who received the new surgical technique with a control group 25 infants receiving standard surgical care for congenital cataracts. After three months all infants receiving the new technique had regenerated new, clear lenses, while the control group had higher incidences of postsurgical inflammation and other complications.

“We believe that our new approach will result in a paradigm shift in cataract surgery and may offer patients a safer and better treatment option in the future,” said Kang Zhang, chief of Ophthalmic Genetics at UC San Diego. “The success of this work represents a new approach in how new human tissue or organ can be regenerated and human disease can be treated, and may have a broad impact on regenerative therapies by harnessing the regenerative power of our own body.

Further information: http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/stem_cells_regenerate_human_lens_after_cataract_surgery_restoring_vision

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