Channel 4’s documentary – “The science of seeing again” was a wonderful example of the application of stem cells in tissue regeneration. Presented by Katie piper, an acid attack victim, the documentary follows her brave journey through the treatment and post-operative care. Katie suffered serious burns in 2008 following an acid attack by her ex boyfriend, which also left her blinded in her left eye.
After enduring 4 years of constant operations totaling more than 100, she decided to approach Dr sheraz Daya, a leading surgeon and pioneer in stem cell technology, after seeing him on TV talking about a new stem cell procedure for the eye. What struck me the most about Katie was her courage and determination.
Her surgery took place in November at the
Queen Victoria Hospital in West Sussex and involved the grafting of donor stem cells from the cornea into katie’s damaged eye after the corneal stem cells were cultured in the laboratory. The results appear positive with surgery having removed the abnormal cells in the eye and the stem cells promoting healthy cell growth and repair.
How it all works:
The stem cell procedure carried out by the doctor used the limbal tissue (at the border of the white of the eye and the clear cornea)from a male donor and cultivated the stem cells from that tissue in the laboratory before transplanting them into Katie Piper’s damaged left eye. Before the transplant takes place however, the patient’s existing scar tissue and abnormal blood vessel growth requires removal from the surface of the eye. The stem cells are then covered with a thin piece of tissue membrane taken from the womb lining as this encourages cell growth and provides scaffolding for the corneal stem cells.
Prior to the operation Piper could only discern light and dark. Following the stem cell transplant she has regained enough vision to detect depth, movement, and even facial features with gradual improvements in her sight over the three months since surgery.
After all Katie’s been through in these last years, she definitely deserves all the luck she can get!
Click on the link below to watch the programme in full: