What is a stem cell transplant and when is a stem cell transplant needed?


Stem cells of the cornea are special cells that generate new cells for the surface of the eye. For the new surface of the cornea to be rebuilt, you need stem cells. These cells reside at the junction between the cornea and the white bit of the eye, that’s the sclera.

If for any reason these stem cells are not functioning well. For example, after a burn, trauma, damage to the surface of the eye, or rarely, children could be born with the absence of these cells, this means that there are no cells to replenish or to regenerate the surface of the cornea. This means that the cornea will end up cloudy and the vision will be badly compromised.

One of the treatments for this condition is prevention. Obviously, if there is a sign of early stem cell failure, one can work hard early to stop things getting worse, and that could involve a bit of topical treatment or sometimes systemic treatment, to preserve the surface of the eye and allow the remaining stem cells to function well.

However, if the whole surface of the eye is affected and the majority of stem cells are gone, then obviously stem cell transplantation is indicated. Now there are various ways to transplant stem cells. It depends on the source of the stem cells. Normally, any tissue you take from a donor, means that you need to have immunosuppression treatment because this tissue is not from you, so your body and your immune system will reject it, and therefore you have to take some drugs to suppress the immune system.

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