The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $5.25 million grant from the Department of Defense [DoD] to develop clinical trials using stem cells to treat eye injuries and expedite healing. The treatments utilize mesenchymal stem cells (the same type of stem cells found in teeth) due to their anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, which can help heal scarring and preserve eyesight. The treatments are targeted for combat veterans injured due to explosions and chemical burns to the eye, but could also be used to treat chronic corneal injuries in other patients.
Italian scientists from the University of Modena and Holostem Terapie Avanzate have developed the first advanced therapy medicinal product containing stem cells, called Holoclar. The Holoclar therapy can restore sight following corneal burns and stromal damage by harvesting the patient’s own stem cells from the limbus, culturing the stem cells into a sheet of healthy corneal tissue, and then transplanting the cornea back onto the patient’s eye.