Less Invasive Cataracts Procedure Keeps Stem Cells Intact

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Leaving cells behind during removal of damaged tissue leads to regeneration of new, clear lens
Leaving cells behind during removal of damaged tissue leads to regeneration of new, clear lens

HealthDay News — A new surgical technique for removing cataracts might allow the eye's stem cells to regenerate a healthy lens, according to preliminary findings reported online March 9 in Nature.

Kang Zhang, MD, PhD, founding director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, told HealthDay that his team's approach – tested in animals and 12 infants with congenital cataracts –could offer a way to harness the body's own healing capacity. His team developed a less invasive approach that preserves the lens capsule, keeping the native stem cells intact.

The resident stem cells were able to regenerate a clear lens in all 12 infants over 3 months. The investigators also reported less inflammation in the eyes and less lens clouding, compared with 25 infants who had standard cataract surgery.

Zhang sees his team's approach as particularly promising because there is no transplanted tissue. "Our work focuses on using stem cells that are right at the place of injury," he said, a fact that could avoid potential problems such as infection transmission or immune system rejection.

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