The centre at the L. V. Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad – which was inaugurated last month by Indian President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam – will use a new approach to repairing eyes. The technique involves using stem cells derived from two different parts of the eye – the conjunctiva (the membrane that lines the eye) and the limbus (the area next to the cornea, the transparent front of the eye).
More than 180 patients with eye damage have been treated using stem cells in a clinical trial at the Institute. Forty of these patients – with particularly severe eye damage – have so far been treated using the co-cultures, and are now being monitored. “Approximately 50 per cent of cases show successful results, which is very encouraging,” says Geeta Kashyap, a scientist at LVPEI.
“LVPEI's work in this area is commendable,” says Arun Gulani, director of corneo-plastic surgery and refractive surgery at the University of Florida, United States. “I think it is a very promising field with widespread applications,” he says, but cautions that this work needs to have “adequate follow-up”.