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Researchers report promising advances in treating blindness

One of the most damaging and life-altering injuries people can suffer is one that affects their eyes and/or vision. The ability to see is something that many of us may take for granted on a daily basis. However, when a person loses their sight after a catastrophic accident, his or her life will undoubtedly and dramatically change.

Recently, researchers in Massachusetts explored options for restoring vision to people who have lost their eyesight or developed serious eye diseases after events including chemical or burn accidents that damage a person's eyes. In many cases, these serious injuries or conditions can lead to blindness; however, researchers believe they have found a promising treatment to help these victims.

According to reports, researchers have determined that in cases of injuries leading to blindness, there may be a lack of limbal stem cells. These cells allow corneal tissue to regenerate and help protect a person's vision. However, in cases when these stem cells are damaged or missing, a person may become blind.

A recent study involving corneal transplants in mice has generated some promising results in addressing the loss of limbal stem cells. Prevoiusly, the condition and presence of limbal stem cells in these transplants were difficult to confirm and led to inconsistent results. However, researchers say they have found a way to definitively identify these cells and use them to help regrow healthy corneas which could restore a transplant recipient's sight. 

Practical use of this research may be relatively far off, but the results are certainly promising. People in and around Atlanta who lose their sight as a result of a serious injury may want to continue to follow any developments in this story as it could have a distinct and dramatic impact on their lives, should the treatment become available in the near future.

Source: Harvard Gazette, "New way to regrow human corneas," July 2, 2014

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