A team in Japan has successfully carried out the world's first transplant of corneal tissue made from human iPS induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The patient's vision has improved considerably, said researchers.
Professor Kohji Nishida, an ophthalmologist at Osaka University, and colleagues announced their results at a press conference at the campus in Suita, Osaka Prefecture last week.
The patient, a woman in her forties, left hospital on 23 August following surgery on 25 July. 'It's been just a month, but right now we see the operation as a success,' said Professor Nishida, according to The Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
'After the operation, her clouded cornea became transparent and her vision has improved considerably,' he added. 'We'll continue to monitor her condition to see if it stays that way.'
The woman has a condition known as corneal epithelial stem cell deficiency, which means that she has lost the stem cells in her eyes that replace damaged cells in the cornea. If dead or damaged cells in the cornea – the thin transparent tissue that protects the eye – are not replaced, this can lead to blurred vision and blindness.
The procedure involved using a 0.03-0.05 millimetre thick sheet of human iPSCs to grow corneal cells and then transplanting these into the woman's left eye.
'We have only conducted the first operation and we are continuing to monitor the patient carefully,' Professor Nishida said, according to the Japan Times.
The team has government approval to carry out the procedure on three more patients, and plans to carry out another transplant this year.
Corneal transplants from deceased donors are used to treat the condition. Currently, about 1600 patients in Japan are on the waiting list for a corneal transplant.