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Stem Cells

New breakthrough could reduce the number of people suffering from blindness

Research conducted by scientists in NUI Galway could increase the number of successful cornea transplant operations.

NEW RESEARCH RELEASED today by scientists at NUI Galway offers new hope to those suffering from corneal eye disease.

It is hoped that a new system for carrying out cornea transplants could significantly improve the acceptance rate in operations. At current, around 30% of transplants are unsuccessful due to rejection by the patients immune system.

By utilising stem cells it is hoped that the new system could drop rejection rates to as low as 10%. This would increase the overall number of people keeping their sight after undergoing transplant operations. 

Each year around 100,000 people worldwide undergo the cornea transplant procedure.

Cornea eye disease is the fourth most common eye disease and affects 10 million people internationally.

Researchers at NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) demonstrated that the use of a stem cell called a mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) could be used to assist the immune system’s response to transplanted human tissue.

Lead researcher from REMEDI, Dr Thomas Ritter, said: “It is hoped this work will lead to much improved outcomes for the 100,000 people worldwide who undergo cornea transplant procedures each year.”

A follow-up study costing €6 million is now underway. This will involve the REMEDI research team along with 11 collaborators from across Europe. It is hoped this five-year project called ‘VISICORT’ will reveal more detail about cornea transplant immune rejection.

Earlier this year the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland was opened in NUI Galway. It allows stem cell testing in human clinical trials to be carried out for the first time in Ireland.

Read: Red blood cells grown in a lab to be trialled in humans

Also: Stem cells for human use can now be manufactured in Ireland

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