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By Express News Service 
24 Jul 2010 03:33:18 AM IST

Eye stem cell therapy shows promise 

CHENNAI: Want to go in for stem cell therapy for your eye ailment but wary of the risk of infection? Help may be at hand. For, a new procedure, developed and patented by Sankara Nethralaya and Nichiin Bio Sciences of Japan, offers promise to treat ailments like corneal ulcers and StevensJohnson Syndrome.

To avoid viral infection and contamination, researchers used a synthetic material to grow corneal limbal stem cells of a rabbit. Being a nonbiological material, it also prevented rejection caused in the case of the biological one.

This material is actually a gel called Mebiol Gel. It gets liquefied when cooled. The Mebiol Gel helps rapid multiplication of cells. Once enough cells are grown, the cell culture dish is put in a refrigerator. After the gel liquefies, the stem cells are separated. They are then loosely injected into the eyes of rabbits.

"The cells that are cultivated within the Mebiol Gel can be used for therapeutic purposes, instead of human tissues like the amniotic membrane," says Dr H N Madhavan, President, Vision Research Foundation, and Director and Professor of Microbiology, Sankara Nethralaya.

"We received a patent in July for the process... It was a great struggle to get the patent, with challenges posed by many countries... and the next step is to take up human trial," he informs.

The success of the therapy would be known only after one year of regular checkups and followups once the patients undergo therapy. The Nethralaya would have a registry of patients, who meet the qualifications to undergo the procedure.

"The Mebiol Gel will not be priced over Rs 5,000. But the cost of the entire operation is yet to be decided," Dr Madhavan says.

Dr S S Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, said the new procedure would help those suffering from corneal blindness. At the Sankara Nethralaya's Ocular Surface Clinic, approximately 6,000 cases are seen a year. Also, 125 new patients with the Stevens Johnson syndrome seek services every year. Of this, 25 per cent would benefit from the cultured corneal epithelial transplant. Similarly, 75 new patients with thermal or chemical injury come to hospital every year. Almost 80 per cent of them will benefit from the corneal limbal stem cell transplantation, he said.

Dr Samuel Abraham, Director, Nichiin Bio Sciences, Japan, and Consul General of Japan Yoshiaki Kodaki were present.


- Courtesy New Indian Express, 24 July 2010 issue.
*"Nichi" stands for Japan and "In" stands for India. This institute started on an Indo-Japan collaboration now has spreaded further with global alliances
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