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Remarkable surgery uses stem cells to regenerate an eye’s lens and restore vision

If worn body parts could be repaired, we could live longer and healthier lives. That is the dream of those working in the field of regenerative medicine. In a feat towards that dream, researchers in China have used a new technique to restore vision in children suffering from cataracts.

Some 20 million people are blind because of cataracts, which is the result of clouding in the eye lens. The condition is more common among the old, but some children are born with it too.

Conventional treatment of a cataract involves removal of the affected eye lens and replacing it with an artificial one. This works well in adults but can cause complications in growing children.

So instead of replacing it with an artificial lens, researchers at Sun Yat-sen University and the University of California at San Diego used body’s own stem cells. These cells are the most promising tool in regenerative medicine, because they can divide into any kind of cell in the body.

The researchers make a small slit in the lens capsule to remove the cloudy cataract. Then the capsule, which is already lined with a type of lens stem cell, is left alone. Slowly the stem cells start regenerating the lens. They first performed the surgery in rabbits and then monkeys. In both cases, they had very high success rates.

They then performed the surgery in 12 children that had cataracts in both eyes. After eight months, they report in Nature, the lens regrew as was hoped. “This is the first time an entire lens has been regenerated. The children … continue to be doing very well with normal vision,” researcher Kang Zhang told the BBC.

The treatment will now need to undergo a bigger trial to be sure that it can be safely used on patients. And it may not work in older patients, whose stem cells are less capable than the youthful ones in children.

Still, this treatment comes at a time when stem cells could prove useful in helping those with other kinds of vision problems. In another study published in Nature, researchers report successfully converting stem cells into cells from the cornea, conjunctiva, and retina. This raises hope not just for repairing other parts of the eye, but for partial eye transplantations to restore vision in those who have previously had no hope of ever being able to see.

Immunotherapy could be the future of cancer treatments

For decades most cancers have been treated with the standard of care treatments which typically include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. Now there is talk that immunotherapy represents "the future of cancer treatments." 

CEL-SCI Corporation, a Vienna-based biotech firm is now investigating their flagship investigational cancer immunotherapy called Multikine (Leukocyte Interleukin, Injection), in a global Phase 3 clinical study what they believe is the logical next step in immunotherapy development. Based on the results of earlier human studies, researchers at CEL-SCI believe that immunotherapy should be administered as an initial therapy before a patient's immune system has been debilitated by surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Data from Multikine Phase 2 human studies demonstrated that when Multikine was administered for only 3 weeks immediately after diagnosis, the treatment reduced and in some cases eliminated all signs of a tumor before surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy, for head and neck cancer patients, were administered.

Cord Blood Stem Cells- An Effective but Undervalued Tool in Clinical Trial Strategy

 Mahendra S. Rao, M.D., Ph.D. , Katherine S. Brown, Ph.D.

Cord Blood Stem Cells

For over two decades, stem cells isolated from umbilical cord blood have been successfully used in transplant medicine to treat life-threatening diseases such as leukemia and other cancers, and blood and immune disorders. Umbilical cord blood stem cells have been used in more than 35,000 transplants worldwide. With regenerative medicine continuing to attract interest from scientists and clinicians, umbilical cord blood stem cells are increasingly being investigated for their capacity to induce healing and help repair tissues in conditions that have no cure today.

    Cord blood collection poses no medical risk to the mother or infant. When cord blood is donated to a public bank, it is HLA typed and catalogued in a searchable registry, allowing physicians to match a unit to an unrelated patient requiring a stem cell transplant. Compared to bone marrow, cord blood offers the benefits of using biologically younger stem cells and less risk of serious complications when used in transplants. Cord blood also circumvents the technical and ethical concerns that can arise with research involving embryonic stem cells.

    Clinical trials are already underway to explore the use of cord blood cells to treat a number of disease states, and the field is poised to deliver some very exciting breakthroughs. However, while clinical trials are essential for validating a therapeutic option and bringing it into practice, they can be both costly and time-consuming, and researchers, therefore, look for ways to optimize trial strategy. Family health registries may provide a possible solution.

    Because of their ongoing relationship with the family, private banks have the opportunity to record extensive family health histories, which may help scientists retroactively link preliminary clinical trial outcomes to genotypic and phenotypic traits. This is a huge potential benefit both in evaluating results and in recruitment for a clinical trial, where enrollment can be targeted to those people most likely to benefit from a given treatment.

Baby girl returns home after successful stem cell treatment

By Cai Wenjun | November 12, 2015, Thursday |  Print Edition

Zhao Jiaxin is back in her parents’ arms yesterday after being released from hospital in Shanghai. The baby earlier underwent stem cell therapy at Fudan University’s Children’s Hospital to treat a bowel disease. The stem cells were extracted from umbilical cord blood provided by a donor. — Xinhua

A BABY girl was discharged from hospital yesterday after undergoing stem cell therapy to treat a bowel disease that likely killed her sister, doctors told Shanghai Daily.

Zhao Jiaxin, now 10 months old, is the first person in China to be treated for Crohn’s disease using stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood.

When she was just 8 days old, Zhao began suffering from diarrhea and fever — symptoms that had beset her sister, who died when she was 5 months old.

“We feared so much that we might lose her, too,” Ji Jiannan, the baby’s mother, said after her daughter was discharged from hospital yesterday.

First Trial To Use Umbilical Cord Stem Cells For HIV Treatment

By Angela Laguipo, Tech Times | October 28, 4:23 AM

Stem cell technology shows promise in the treatment of many diseases and a breakthrough discovery might determine a potable cure for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection. The world's first clinical trial wherein HIV-positive patients will be treated using blood transplants from the umbilical cord within three years is set to be performed in Spain.

The purpose of the study is to recreate the success story of the first man who was cured of the potentially-fatal viral infection. Dubbed as the 'Berlin Patient', Timothy Ray Brown is the only living person in the world who was completely cured from HIV.

Brown, who was HIV-positive, received a shocking diagnosis in 2006. Apparently, he developed leukemia, a type of cancer affecting the blood cells in the body. During his treatment, he underwent stem cell transplant and surprisingly, his HIV virus count dramatically decreased.

Today, he is cancer-free and only traces of the virus can be found in his body which do not replicate making him HIV-free.

In a similar case, a man from Barcelona also received blood transplant from umbilical cords but he died shortly due to lymphoma that they were not able to evaluate if the procedure was successful.

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