Can stem cells restore sight? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Can stem cells restore sight?

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Sylvia Paton, 50, can only see shadows with her left eye. She was born with an eye condition called Aniridia.

"I can see greenery; I'm assuming it would be trees. I also see what is probably rooftops with small detail," Paton said.

Slowly, she's been losing the rest of her sight because her eye has no way to control the light that comes through. That has damaged her cornea. Now, she's taking part in a first-of-its-kind experiment in Scotland where scientists are trying to restore some of her sight. Doctors transplanted stem cells into her eye that they hope will protect her cornea and repair the damage.

Scientists at the lab isolate the cells from donors, and then grow them into tissue.

"They do exactly what they do in life; they reproduce themselves and grow outwards over the surface," said Bah Dhillon, a researcher.

Until now, a full cornea tissue transplant was the only treatment.

"I think it will be a major step forward for the many hundreds and thousands of individuals who have problems with Aniridia and other conditions scarring to the cornea," said Dr. Ashish Agrawal, a researcher.

Paton has no regrets about having the experimental treatment.

"I feel extremely excited and so honored to have the opportunity," she said.

It will be months before doctors know if the procedure helped.

One other person also took part in the Scottish study.

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