1106 GMT February 22, 2020
A group of researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and Shiley Eye Institute along with scientists from the Sun Yat-sen University in China devised the method and successfully reversed blindness in 12 infants born with congenital cataracts. The collective published their findings in the journal Nature on Wednesday, reported by presstv.ir.
Cataract, a slow progressing malfunction in the lens of the eye, happens when the lens loses transparency and turns cloudy, which leads to a decrease in vision. The most common causes of cataract are age, trauma, radiation, and genetics. About half of the total number of blindness in the world and about a third of any kinds of visual impairment worldwide are caused by the disease.
In the conventional treatment, the impaired lens is replaced with an intraocular one, which could lead to infections, inflammation, and a night time halo effect in vision, particularly in children.
In the new method, however, instead of using a transplant, the malfunctioning lens is extracted but the lens capsule is left intact. Then, the nearby cells are coaxed to move to the capsule and grow into a fresh and functioning lens.
“An ultimate goal of stem cell research is to turn on the regenerative potential of one's own stem cells for tissue and organ repair and disease therapy… 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 Dr. Kang Zhang, the chief of Ophthalmic Genetics section and founding director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
All the twelve Chinese children, who underwent the operation, were under two years old, but researchers hope that the new method could also help older people to overcome the disease and regain their vision.