1. ITV Report

Children with cataracts have sight restored after stem cell treatment

The study used stem cells to regenerate healthy lenses in children with cataracts Credit: Reuters

Scientists have used a new stem cell technique to restore sight in children with cataracts in China.

They removed the cataracts in a way that allowed remaining stem cells to regenerate the lenses in the eye.

Normally, cataract surgery largely removes the "endogenous" stem cells which naturally congregate at the site of an injury. The few that remain tend to generate disorganised regrowth and no useful vision.

Researchers tried out the treatment in animals and a small group of 12 children under the age of two who had cataracts.

Lead scientist Dr Kang Zhang, from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in the US, said: "An ultimate goal of stem cell research is to turn on the regenerative potential of one's own stem cells for tissue and organ repair and disease therapy.

"The success of this work represents a new approach in how new human tissue or organ can be regenerated and human disease can be treated, and may have a broad impact on regenerative therapies by harnessing the regenerative power of our own body."

Fewer complications and faster healing was seen in children receiving the new treatment compared with others given standard surgery.

After three months, all had regenerated lenses in their eyes.

Professor Graham McGeown, from Queen's University Belfast, said: "The study provides clear 'proof in principle' of an important new treatment for cataracts in children.

"This new approach dramatically reduced the risk of sight-damaging side effects when compared with the current 'best practice' treatment, which involves more destructive surgery followed by implantation of an artificial lens.

"It is unclear, however, whether this would be of benefit in adults with cataracts."