Japanese Researchers Perform World’s 1st iPS Cell Cornea Transplant

A research team from Japan’s Osaka University led by Koji Nishida conducted the world’s first transplant of corneal tissues using induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells last month. The female patient in her 40s, who suffered from corneal epithelial stem cell deficiency, was discharged from the hospital last week. So far there are no problems and her eyesight has improved, according to the team. In the surgery conducted July 25, the team transplanted in her left eye extremely thin sheet-like corneal tissues produced from another individual’s iPS cells that had been stored at Kyoto University.

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The team believes that one transplant should remain effective throughout a patient’s life. The corneal epithelial stem cell deficiency is caused by losing cells in the eye that produce the cornea due to illness or injury, leading to worsening eyesight and loss of vision. The researchers will continue to monitor the patient to observe the transplant’s effectiveness and safety, including looking for tumorigenicity. At present around 1,600 people in Japan are waiting for corneal donations.  Koji Nishida said that he would like the treatment to be put into practical use as a common treatment within around five years. The team plans to conduct its second transplant within the year.

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