Using stem cells to restore sight in acid attack victims

Moorfields Eye Hospital consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Sajjad Ahmad, talks to OT  about cultivated limbal epithelial transplantation

Sajjad Ahmad

A pioneering therapy that uses stem cells to repair the surface of the eye is helping to restore sight in acid attack victims.

Speaking to OT, Moorfields Eye Hospital consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Sajjad Ahmad, shared that each week he sees two or three patients with severe eye injuries from chemical assaults.

A new treatment called cultivated limbal epithelial transplantation (CLET) is now available on the NHS as a treatment option for these patients.

Mr Ahmad explained that a small biopsy is taken from the eye in order to grow stem cells.

Scar tissue is then removed and replaced with stem cells grown in the lab.

“From a surgical point of view it is not any more demanding than a corneal transplant or other surgeries that we do,” Mr Ahmad said.

A corneal transplant or cataract surgery may follow once the clinician is satisfied that the cells have taken and the surface of the eye is healthy again.

Mr Ahmad said while the cost to the NHS for CLET may seem significant at £92,000, it is comparable to other treatments such as bone marrow transplantation or hip surgery.

He observed that many of the patients affected by acid attacks are in their 20s and 30s.

There are social and financial implications of the injury as well as physical, he added.

“To put that in context of the money that buys the treatment, it is a whole lifetime of someone seeing again,” Mr Ahmad concluded.

OT speaks to Moorfields Eye Hospital consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Sajjad Ahmad, about cultivated limbal epithelial transplantation

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