First corneal transplant made from iPS cells in a woman is successful

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Scientists from Japan were successful in creating an incredible feat of medical advancement. The researchers from Osaka University in Japan performed the first-ever corneal transplant in July, using reprogrammed stem cells(iPS cells).


Corneal transplant using induced pluripotent stem cells 


In a recent breakthrough, a woman with a corneal disease has become the first person in the world to receive a corneal transplant from induced pluripotent stem cells.

The structure of our eyes, with the cornea right at the front. Source: Holly Fischer/Wikimedia Commons

Your eyesight is the most important sense, it is the most highly developed sensory organ of the body. A far larger part of the brain is dedicated to vision. And when one loses their eyesight the blessing of eyes are realized. Most of us will do everything in our power to restore our eyesight to normal.

Corneal disease is a serious condition of the eye that can cause clouding, distortion, scarring and eventually blindness. A woman in her forties from Japan with a corneal disease has become the first person in the world to receive a corneal transplant made from induced pluripotent stem cells.  

Scientists from japan were successful in creating an incredible feat of medical advancement. The  researchers from Osaka University in Japan performed the first-ever corneal transplant in July, using reprogrammed stem cells.

The earlier corneal transplant was possible but it had to be carried out depending on corneas of deceased donors. But now researchers have made it possible using pluripotent stem cells.

Related: The Gems  Stem Cells


How was transplant carried out?


The transplant was carried out on the left eye of a woman who was suffering from corneal epithelial stem cell deficiency, which can lead to blindness. Kohji Nishida, team lead conducted the transplant with his teammates on July 27, and the patient was discharged on August 23. She is being monitored closely, and it is claimed that she is recovering well and can see better out of her transplanted eye, which is enough to function normally in her daily life.  

“We have only conducted the first operation and we are continuing to monitor the patient carefully,”

– Kohji Nishida 

The team transplanted a very thin layer of corneal tissue of thickness 0.03-0.05 millimeters. This cornea was produced using another person’s induced pluripotent stem cells. Here the stem cells are created by recreating adult skin cells from the donor into an embryonic state, from where they can regenerate into a different type of cells in this case it is corneal cells.

What are stem cells?


These are a very special family of cells. When most other cells divide, the daughter cells look and act exactly like their parents. For example, blood cells will produce blood cells only, but in the case of stem cells, they can become many different types. Do you know an embryo grows from a single fertilized egg into a fetus with trillions of specialized cells? These special cells make up various kinds of tissues that function very differently, including those in the brain, skin, muscle and other organs and luckily further in life, stem cells also can replace worn-out or damaged cells — including red blood cells.

And now scientists from Japan were successful in transplanting corneal cells using induced pluripotent stem cells( iPS cells). iPS cells are a type of pluripotent stem cells that can be generated directly from adult cells. These cells can propagate indefinitely and can give rise to each cell type in the body, hence these represent a single source of cells that could be used to replace those lost to damage or disease. And thus these special attributes of stem cells make them very exciting to scientists all over the world.

Who made the discovery of iPS cells?


In the year 2006, Shinya Yamanaka was the first stem cell biologist who discovered these incredible iPS cells at Kyoto University, winning him the Noble Prize.

Since this initial discovery, researchers have rapidly improved the techniques to generate iPS cells.  The Japanese health minister has now permitted researchers to carry out the procedure on four other patients.

Point of view


Medical research is undoubtedly reaching to its new heights. Like this one which holds promise in future to repair damaged cells without getting dependent of deceased donors. The team in Osaka believes that one surgery and transplant is enough to restore vision for a lifetime.
In a report of JAMA Opthalmology survey, it is estimated that 12.7 million people are in need of corneal transplant worldwide. Patients require this surgery but the major question is about cost-efficiency. When the stem cell research cost 2018 poll was conducted, patients self-reported mostly paying between $2500 and $7000. And about 1 in 10 responded reported paying $20,000 or more, including some beyond $100,000. Though this is an internet poll which might not be accurate but that’s a whooping stem cell treatment cost, something mostly often unapproved by FDA. If it is proved the treatment cost is this high then all the hard work to invest and test therapies won’t help all the needed individuals. This high price would be affordable by elite high rich class individuals far from a normal middle -class family. 

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1. Osaka team pulls off cornea cell transplant using human iPS cells
The Asahi Shimbun | 30 August 2019 

2. Osaka University team conducts world’s first iPS transplant for corneal disease
The Japan Times | 29 August 2019

Drafted by Nagama Nadaf
 A technophile who is crazy about technology and passionate about blogging. 
I care by sharing recent advancements in technology and try to reach out to the minds of people

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