Previously damaging your cornea meant that it was almost impossible to get your vision back, the only treatment being a cornea transplant from a donor who had died.
The results of an operation on a Japanese woman by an ophthalmologist Kohji Nishida, however, is hope for many patients with cornea damage. Nishida from Osaka University, Japan revealed at a press conference on 29 August that he had transplanted sheets of corneal cells he created using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) into the eyes of his patient, who has improved eyesight ever since.
iPS are actually adult skin cells that have been reprogrammed into an embryonic state, giving them the ability to transform into any kind of cell in the human body – in our case corneal cells. iPS cells were discovered by a stem-cell biologist Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, who won a Nobel prize for his work, and Japanese physicians have been using this technique to treat spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, and other eye diseases.
Now, Nishida’s discovery has paved the way for usage of cornea treatment clinically, which he hopes will commercialize in the next five years. For now, he has been given permission to try the procedure on four people, and he has planned his next operation for the next year.