A collaborative effort between the Vision Research Foundation and Nichi-In Biosciences has borne fruit with the invention of a novel procedure which will help treat diseases like persistent corneal ulcers, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and other severely damaging injuries to the corneal epithelium.
In 2003, VRF scientists identified a synthetic material — the Mebiol Gel — which was used to grow corneal limbal stem cells of rabbits.
According to Dr. HN Madhavan, President, Vision Research Foundation, who headed the VRF team, the stem cells multiplied rapidly in the Mebiol Gel, which liquefies when cooled.
The cell culture dish was placed in a refrigerator and once the gel liquefied, scientists injected the stem cells, after separating it from the liquid, into the eyes of 12 rabbits blinded because of ocular surface damage.
The results were promising —vision was completely restored in seven rabbits and partially restored in three rabbits. The procedure, however, failed to yield any significant response in the remaining two rabbits.
Dr. Madhavan, who is also Director & Professor of Microbiology, Sankara Nethralaya, said that cultivating stem cells using the Mebiol Gel prevented rejection and infection.
The team applied for a patent in 2005 and in March 2010, both VRF and Nichi-In Biosciences were awarded the patent for “a method for cultivating cells derived from corneal limbal tissue.”
Describing the patent as a “great achievement,” Sankara Nethralaya Chairman Emeritus Dr. SS Badrinath said, “It is a red letter day for Sankara Nethralaya. This product will be of service to humanity, benefiting patients with corneal blindness.”
Deputy Consul General of Japan in Chennai, Mr. Takayuki Kitagawa, who was the chief guest, said India was emerging as a major destination for stem cell research and called for enhanced collaboration and cooperation between the countries in the field of medicine.
Dr. Samuel JK Abraham, Director, Nichi-In Biosciences, spoke on the hurdles that the organisations had to overcome while undertaking the research.
Eye stem cell therapy shows promiseIndian express, july 24, 2010
New hope in stem cell therapy for blindnessTimes of India, July 23, 2010