Stem cells to regenerate the lens in infants

Stem cells to regenerate the lens in infants

Stem cells have been in the news for the past few years. While they have been used sporadically to treat a number of medical disorders, there have been very few reports about actual regeneration of a body organ with these cells. With so many restrictions on stem cell use in western countries, not many institutions have used these cells to grow human organs.

Well now researchers from the Shiley Eye Institute at the University of San Diego combined with colleagues in China and have developed a new regenerative medical approach to treating congenital cataract in newborn infants. These researchers first tested the system in animals and then applied the technique to 12 newborn infants born with cataracts.

Cataracts are known to cause clouding of the lens in newborn infants and can cause blindness. The clouded lens is known to obstruct the passes of light to the retina resulting in poor visual information processing by the brain. The current treatment of cataracts in newborns is removal of the cataracts followed by corrective eyewear.

In this study the researchers used the ultimate power of the stem cells by regenerating human tissue. After the cataracts were removed in these infants, the integrity of the lens membrane was preserved to help give the lens shape. From prior research, the researcher left the lens epithelial stem cells intact along the edges.

After 3 months, a clear regenerated biconvex lens developed in all 12 infants. Six months after the surgery, all children who were treated in this fashion had a complete lens in both eyes, and the surgical openings made to the lens capsule were healed. Vision testing revealed that the children’s vision was as good as those who underwent conventional surgery.

This pioneering work shows that it is possible to regenerate human organs. The researchers are now looking to expand their research to help treat adults with cataracts. Cataracts affect millions of people all over the world and are a leading cause of blindness. In adults who undergo cataract surgery, the natural lens is removed, and an artificial intraocular lens is implanted. Unfortunately, more than 50% of adults who undergo this surgery are left with poor vision and the need for eyeglasses.

With this innovative research, there is hope that stem cells may be used to treat adults who undergo cataract surgery. However, the difficulty is that removal of cataracts in adults is quite difficult and the lens may not have any more residual stem cells to regenerate the organ.

3 Extreme Behaviors Unhealthy People Often Exhibit


  1. They tend to look for the easiest way out. People who tend to live unhealthy lives also tend to want faster, simpler solutions. They want immediate results, rather than relying on hard work to get what they want or need. They tend to look for handouts, for others to do things for them, and to not have to work hard to achieve their goals.


  1. They almost always assume the worst. Those leading unhealthy lives tend to see the worst in everything. When they get news, their minds begin thinking of the worst possible scenarios. These same people often assume that other people don’t like them due to their unhealthy habits, they assume that they have messed up, or are going to mess up, and most believe that their attempts at success will ultimately fail or go unnoticed. They tend to believe that other people have negative intentions toward them and that they will go disliked.


  1. Unhealthy individuals don’t set goals for themselves. Individuals maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle often don’t create steps or goals for themselves, and they often quit before they begin when they do. Most of the time, they spend their entire lives doing nothing, not attempting to reach a better life for themselves. They will often confide in others that they would like better things in life, but are unwilling to set up goals to achieve what they want, much less create strategies that would improve them, their lives, or their situations.




Stem Cells 101

Over the past few years, there have been almost daily reports about stem cells and their miraculous medical benefits. There are countless reports of stem cells being used to treat patients with various illnesses. But what exactly are stem cells?

Stem cells are a group of undifferentiated cells that have the potential to differentiate into almost any type of specialized cell. In general stem cells can be derived from the embryo or adult tissues.  Adult stem cells can be found in almost any tissue but unlike the embryo their numbers are limited. The adult stem cells are usually in a non-dividing state and only become activated if there is tissue injury or a need for repair.

The adult stem cells have the ability to self renew indefinitely enabling them to generate several types of cells types or even regenerate an entire organ. It was initially believed that adult stem cells had a limited ability to differentiate only into the tissues of their origin but now evidence indicates that they can also differentiate into other cell types.

Embryonic stem cells have the potential to differentiate into any cell or an organ-for example you can theoretically create a clone human. The embryonic stem cells are those that are derived from a 4-5 day old embryo.

When stem cells are isolated they are placed in a controlled environment that prevents them from specializing or differentiating but permits them to divide and replicate. This process allows for having a large number of stem cells when needed.

The potential to differentiate into other cell types further classifies stem cells. Embryonic cells are the most potent as they have the ability to differentiate into any cell type.

So how can stem cell help?
For many years, researchers have been studying stem cells for treatment of many medical disorders. Because these cells have the potential to differentiate into any cell type, their potential is unlimited. One of the major uses of stem cells has been to regenerate tissues. At the moment there is a serious shortage of organs for transplantation. Stem cells could potentially be used to grow a new organ. For example after a major burn to the skin, stem cells could be used to replace the burnt skin. In China, eye surgeons recently used stem cells to grow a new lens after removal of cataracts. Scientists are also studying stems cells for the treatment of diabetes.
Other studies involve using stem cells to replace brain tissues in people with Alzheimer and Parkinson disease.
There are currently studies using stem cells to replaced damaged heart tissue. Further studies are being conducted to treat several types of blood disorders (eg sickle cell anemia, leukemia and certain cancers of the bone marrow) with stem cells.
While the potential for stem cell is enormous, there are legal issues surrounding their use. In many countries, the production of embryonic stem cells is illegal, particularly in Europe and the US. In the USA, one can do research on stem cells but any type of human study requires permission. Further, in the USA one cannot use federal funds to do research on stem cells. At the moment, the use of stem cells to treat medical disease is restricted in the US. Until the ethical and legal challenges are sorted out, stem cell therapy will be limited to the lab the potential for abuse of these cells is enormous and this is the reason why there is caution. One does not want a crazy scientist or government to create a clone of humans for any sinister reasons.