Corneal blindness is a medical condition affecting millions of people across the world. Cornea is the outer clear layer of the eye which helps in vision and if the cornea is scarred or damaged, it leads to blindness. This condition is usually treated with donor corneal transplant but shortage of donor corneas and transplant rejection may result in permanent blindness. Other factors such as scarring caused by injury, trauma, infection, and genetic disease may also contribute to permanent loss of vision in patients.
The researchers at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine conducted a study on how the stem cells found in the wisdom teeth can help in treating corneal damage. The study findings published in the journal, STEM CELLS Translational Medicine states that the patients’ own dental stem cells serve as a source for corneal transplant.
According to the research, stem cells are rich in the dental pulp of wisdom teeth which can be coaxed to turn into corneal stromal cells for the treatment. The lead author, Dr. Fatima Syed-Picard and team showed the stem cells extracted from the human third molar or wisdom tooth can be turned in to corneal stromal cells known as Keratocytes. They injected these engineered keratocytes into the cornea of healthy mice which integrated and produced corneal stromal extracellular matrix without affecting the corneal transparency or inducing immunological rejection. Apart from the transplant, the team also constructed the corneal stroma using the stem cells.
As the result findings showed positive outcome in mice, the researchers believe that this therapeutic procedure will work in humans too. Syed Picard mentioned that the dental pulp stem cells can be used to develop bone, neural and other cells and concluded that these stem cells possesses a great potential in clinical regenerative therapies.
If the clinical trials show expected outcome, this therapy can be clinically approved which will help in corneal blindness treatments without donor cornea or any risk of rejection.