ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Know Your Asthma Triggers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Barefoot Lifestyle Has Its Dangers
Childhood Dairy Intake Boosts Bone Health Later On
Osteoporosis May Raise Risk for Vertigo
CANCER
Multiple Screening Strategy Boosts Cervical Cancer Detection
Vitamin E, Selenium and Soy Won't Prevent Prostate Cancer
Get to Know the Pap Test
CAREGIVING
UV Lights, Fans May Curb TB Spread in Hospitals
Medication Errors Could Be Cut: Experts
Recession Scrambling Health Spending in U.S.
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Holistic Dentistry-My View
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
DIABETES
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Is Your Refrigerator Getting Enough Attention For Your Raw Food Success?
Oregano Shown to be the Most Powerful Culinary Herb
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Think You Are Lead-Free? Check Your Soil
Prenatal Exposure to Traffic Pollution May Lead to Asthma
Chemical in Plastics May Cause Fertility Problems
EYE CARE, VISION
Gene-Transfer Proves Safe for Vision Problem
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Walking Golf Course Affects Swing, Performance
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
Treat symptoms (result of disease) or diagnose systems (cause of disease)?
Toxins May Form When Skin, Indoor Ozone Meet
Vitamin E Helps Treat Common Liver Disease
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
Fewer Heart Attacks After England Goes Smoke-Free
Ingredient in Dark Chocolate Could Guard Against Stroke
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Music May Temper Pain in Preemies
School Meals Need to Get Healthier
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
MEN'S HEALTH
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
Fear Response May Stem From Protein in Brain
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
SENIORS
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Natural Childbirth Moms More Attuned to Babies' Cry
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
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Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice

By Jennifer Thomas
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- Stem cells injected into the eyes of mice with defective corneas returned the corneas to a more normal appearance, a new study has found.

Researchers hope the procedure might one day be an alternative to corneal transplants in humans. About 40,000 such transplants are done each year in the United States.

"The stem cells took the scar-like matrix, remodeled it and made it more like normal," said senior investigator James Funderburgh, an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh. "We were surprised and delighted."

A report on the study is in the April 9 online edition of the journal Stem Cells.

The cornea is the transparent, front layer of the eye that serves as a protective barrier and, along with the lens, helps focus light. Corneas can develop scar tissue from chronic inflammation caused by infections or other conditions and by injuries, such as chemical or thermal burns or other trauma.

Scar tissue can cause the cornea to lose its transparency, preventing it from focusing light, and this can lead to a loss of visual acuity, including cloudy, hazy vision sometimes described as looking through frosted glass.

"The only effective therapy is corneal transplant," Funderburgh said.

Several years ago, using human cadavers, Funderburgh and his colleagues collected stem cells from the stroma, a matrix of collagen fibers that gives the cornea its strength.

In a healthy cornea, the collagen fibers run parallel to each other and are highly organized. In a damaged cornea, the matrix is irregular and disorganized, he said.

After growing stem cell cultures in the lab, the researchers injected the stem cells into the eyes of mice bred to have defective corneas that mimic scar tissue in humans.

After three months, the stem cells had regenerated the collagen fibers, making the damaged corneas in the mice look normal, the researchers reported. After one year, the mice corneas still appeared normal.

Stem cells are being used in clinical trials in humans to regenerate other eye tissues, including the epithelium, said Dr. Richard Bensinger, an American Academy of Ophthalmology spokesman.

But he cautioned that the scar-like condition the mice have is different from scar tissue caused by an injury or infection in humans. The mice corneas contained "biochemically deficient tissue" that's missing a protein needed to correctly form the collagen matrix, he said.

A human eye with scar tissue is not missing a protein and has other issues.

"In mice, replacement of the missing protein restores the normal corneal architecture," Bensinger said. "Traumatized corneas in humans are not missing something but have too much of a broad array of proteins causing the scar. Treating such a scar with a replacement protein which happens to be one they already make is not likely to change the character of the scar."

Dr. Ivan Schwab, professor of ophthalmology and director of the Cornea and External Disease Service at the University of California, Davis, was more optimistic.

"Although many steps remain to bring this to a human trial level, this is a real biological step," Schwab said. "Not only does this provide new avenues for possible development of corneal tissues, but it offers new avenues for other tissues as well. This team is to be applauded for outstanding work."

Funderburgh said it will take about two years to develop stem cell cultures that would be suitable for testing in humans, after which they hope to begin clinical trials.

To date, there has not been a shortage of corneas for transplantation in the United States, although there have been shortages in countries where religious and cultural taboos discourage donating or using body parts from the dead.

However, the LASIK corrective eye surgery renders corneas unsuitable for transplantation, which could mean a shortage in years to come, Funderburgh said.

Transplanted corneas have a low risk of rejection, and patients don't even need to take immunosuppressant drugs, Bensinger said. But because of the characteristics of scar tissue, people with corneal injuries are often not good candidates for corneal transplants, and rejection rates among them are higher, he said.

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more on the cornea.



SOURCES: James Funderburgh, Ph.D., associate professor, ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh; Richard Bensinger, M.D., retired chairman, Eye Department, Swedish Hospital, Seattle; Ivan Schwab, professor of ophthalmology and director, Cornea and External Disease Service, University of California, Davis; April 9, 2009, Stem Cells

Last Updated: April 10, 2009

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