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Stem cells 'could cure blindness'

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A new surgical treatment that could cure corneal blindness using stem cells is to be trialled in Britain.

Doctors in Edinburgh and Glasgow will work with 20 patients over two years to find out if adult stem cells from dead donors could be used to restore patients' sight.

Once the stem cells are removed they are cultivated and transplanted onto the surface of the cornea.

If the trial, headed by Professor Bal Dhillon at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh, is successful, millions of people worldwide who suffer from corneal blindness, 80% of whom are elderly, could regain their vision.

Professor Dhillon said: "This study is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and it is exciting to be involved in such groundbreaking work.

"I probably see two or three new cases of corneal disease every month. On a larger scale, it's a significant problem."

A similar study at the University of Pennsylvania in September last year found people with inherited blindness experienced dramatic improvements in vision after a corrective gene was injected into the eye.

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