September 2016

Sight is an integral part of life for most animals, but certain individuals are not fortunate enough to see the world in 20/20 vision. Scientists have long tried to develop techniques and technology to improve or completely restore impaired vision. Thanks to the work of Czech scientists there is now a ray of hope for the majority of those with vision-impairments. By using nanotechnology, scientists and physicians are now a step closer to restoring sight, largely thanks to the work completed by the Technical University in Liberec, in the Czech Republic.

Nanofibers are being created in Liberec that are used in patients to apply stem cells to damaged areas. Scientists from the Institute of Experimental Medicine of the Academy of Science of the Czech Republic have discovered that if stem cells taken from a patient’s bone marrow or fat tissue or received from a matching donor are grown on special nanofibers and placed in the eye, they have the ideal environment for growth, they stay in the right place in the eye and in some cases increase the chances of saving vision several fold. For the time being, testing has been limited to the laboratory, but it is already obvious that this new procedure will have practical applications. Before this happens however, it’s still necessary to conduct clinical trials and get approval from the State Institute for Drug Control.

The current procedure for transferring stem cells uses various types of gel, collagen carriers or contact lenses. Of course, not all types of vision impairments can be treated and patients with corneal injury must still wait for a transplant with a long recovery time.

However, recent research shows that treatment using stem cells transferred directly to the afflicted area with the help of nanofibers can promote the healing and regeneration of corneal tissue.

Stem cells and nanotechnology also give great hope to patients with diabetes who have inflamed retinas or diabetic retinopathy, arising due to general vascular impairments which can lead to severe vision impairments or in the worst cases, complete blindness. This type of blindness is very difficult to treat since it involves the retina, located in the back part of the eye. However, treatment using stem cells grown on nanofibers could help millions of patients suffering from this illness.

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