Adult Stem Cells, Not Embryonic, Cure Blindness in Dozens of Patients in Italy

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 28, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Adult Stem Cells, Not Embryonic, Cure Blindness in Dozens of Patients in Italy

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 28
, 2010

Rome, Italy ( — Scientists from around the world have told the public that Embryonic stem cells will cause the lame to walk and the blind to see, but it is only adult stem cells that have ever helped patients. New reports from Italy indicate blind patients are able to see fully or partially thanks to the sue of adult stem cells.

Dozens of people who were blinded or otherwise suffered from vision problems when their eyes were splashed with dangerous chemicals have had their sight restored.

Italian researchers reported their success on Wednesday in a new report that has since caused a worldwide stir.

Dr. Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis, an ophthalmologist who was not involved in the study, said it is the largest of its kind and told AP it was "a roaring success."

The adult stem cell treatments worked completely for 82 of 107 eyes involved in the study and was partially successful in 14 more. The benefits, AP notes, have last for at least a decade with some patients involved and one man who is 60 and had his eyes very severely damaged years ago now has near normal vision.

The treatment is only successful for patients who have had their eyes damaged from chemicals, not from normal deterioration such as macular degeneration. Also, patients must have at least some sight because their own eye stem cells are used in the process.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, saw researchers take stem cells from a healthy or partially healthy eye, grow them, and implant them in the eye that had been affected.

"They were incredibly happy. Some said it was a miracle," Graziella Pellegrini of the University of Modena’s Center for Regenerative Medicine in Italy, told AP. "It was not a miracle. It was simply a technique."

The Italian government helped fund the study and the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, said President Barack Obama should shift funding from embryonic stem cells, which have never been used in humans because of problems in animal testing, to adult stem cells.

"Its a miracle that the Italian government funded a study involving only the use of adult stem cells. Here in the U.S., research with adult stem cells is only in the preliminary stages while after only two months in office, President Obama ended the ban on embryonic stem cell research," the group said.

"Since March 2009, there has been little to no success with embryonic cells. Hopefully the American science & research community will take this hint from our Italian friends," it added.


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