Corneal Stem Cells Transplant

    Staminal cells transplant today offers the possibility to cure some corneal diseases. In the future it will probably be possible to treat retina disease as well: research here is still at an initial phase.

    Several patients can benefit from staminal cells transplant: People with damaged corneal epithelium caused by

    • acid, lime, or other chemicals burn,
    • iInfections,
    • congenital diseases like aniridia (people born without iris)
    • autoimmune diseases like the Steven Johnson syndrome of the ocular pemphigoid,
    • contact lenses abuse.

    Corneal staminal cells are located in the limbus and are places in a crown shape between the cornea (the transparent part of the eye) and the sclera (the white portion of the eye). When they are damages, the conjuntival epithelium that covers the white part of the eye, covers the whole cornea too, making it loose its transparency. This compromises vision.

    If the problem is located in a single eye, it is possible to transplant staminal cells from the healthy eye to the other. The transplanted cells, in a months and a half, reproduce themselves and the cornea becomes opaque again (autologous transplant).

    If both eyes are affected, it will be necessary a donation from a relative (parent or sibling), that has to be 50% identical or from a corpse, usin anti-rejection treatments (aeterologous transplant).

    In serious case, there is a great opportunity that is to grow corneal staminal cells in the lab: even with few healthy cells it will be possible to have an autologous transplant (cells coming from the patient itself) with good results.

    Surgery usually needs to be completed with a corneal transplant, in order to replace also the damaged corneal stroma. An alternative for a fast vision recovery could be the Boston artificial corneal transplant (keratoprosthesis).
    this kind of surgeries are perfomed only in specialized corneal transplant centers.
    Dr. Badalà performs these surgeries in Milan and Catania.