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Stem cell therapies for vision recovery

Mount Sinai Researchers Awarded $1 Million Grant to Find New Stem Cell Therapies for Vision Recovery

The National Eye Institute (NEI), a division of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai a five-year grant that will support an effort to re-create a patient’s ocular stem cells and restore vision in those blinded by corneal disease.

About six million people worldwide have been blinded by burns, trauma, infection, genetic diseases, and chronic inflammation that result in corneal stem cell death and corneal scarring. There are currently no treatments for related vision loss that are effective over the long term. Corneal stem cell transplantation is an option in the short term, but availability of donor corneas is limited, and patients must take medications that suppress their immune systems for the rest of their lives to prevent rejection of the transplanted tissue.

A newer proposed treatment option is the replacement of corneal stem cells to restore vision. The grant from the NEI will fund Mount Sinai research to re-create a patient’s own stem cells and restore vision in those blinded by corneal disease. Specifically, the grant will support efforts to discover new stem cell therapies for ocular surface disease and make regenerative medicine a reality for people who have lost their vision. The research team will investigate the most viable stem cell sources, seek to create ocular stem cells from eyelid or oral skin cells, explore the molecular pathways involved in ocular and orbital development, and develop cutting-edge biomaterials to engraft a patient’s own stem cells and restore vision.

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