Researchers from the University of Sheffield have developed a technique to help in the grafting of stem cells onto the eye. It is hoped that the technology will be used to treat damage to the cornea.
The study authors made a disc of biodegradable material which can be fixed over the cornea, using a combination of techniques known as microstereolithography and electrospinning. The disc is loaded with stem cells which then multiply, allowing the body to heal the eye naturally.
The researchers designed the disc so that it contains pockets to house and protect the stem cells. These pockets mirror the niches found around the rim of a healthy cornea and can help cells to group together and act as a useful reservoir of daughter cells so that a healthy population of stem cells can be retained in the eye.
“One advantage of our design is that we have made the disc from materials already in use as biodegradable sutures in the eye so we know they won’t cause a problem in the body,” said professor Sheila MacNeil. “This means that we should be able to move to early stage clinical trials fairly quickly.”
Dr Frederik Claeyssens added: “We believe that the overall treatment using these discs will not only be better than current treatments, it will be cheaper as well.”