back to article Chinese boffins grow new eye lenses using stem cells

Chinese scientists have used stem cells to regrow eye lenses and implanted the results in a dozen children. The pioneering procedure developed at Sun Yat-sen University and the University of California means hope for some of the 20 million cataract suffers estimated to constitute half of all cases of blindness and a third of …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

    I'd suggest the reason most people who don't get cataracts fixed do so because of a lack of money, including (IIRC) the people in the US IOW sh**ty healthcare, not technology.

    Now if they'd regenerated someone's whole eyeball IE literally grew it straight off the optic nerve, that would have been seriously impressive.

    Underwhelmed. Sounds like salami science to me.

    1. Mark Simon

      Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

      Illiteracy notwithstanding, I think you’ve missed the point here.

      Regenerative medicine — the ability to regrow faulty organs — is a bit of a holy grail in medicine. Not only is the achievement itself of tremendous value to a large number of human beings, it may be a step towards further advances in this area. Well done and good luck.

      Or maybe you were being ironic and forgot the Joke Alert — or is that Jerk Alert?

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: So they've "solved" a problem that does not really exist?

        Thank you for pointing out my spelling mistake. Now let me point out a few of your misunderstandings.

        "Regenerative medicine — the ability to regrow faulty organs — is a bit of a holy grail in medicine. "

        Indeed, there's a serious amount of money to be made from it.

        Spinal cords, the GI tract, lungs, hearts, down to veins and arteries. All are under development by the process of stripping living cells from existing cartilage structures and seeding with precursor cells of that type. Some have no substitutes apart from organ donation. Others have limited capability. The lens of the eye can be replaced both by artificial media and organ donations and has been for decades.

        "Not only is the achievement itself of tremendous value to a large number of human beings,"

        If they can afford it, otherwise it's not. I suspect the parents of the children in this study would have been able to afford the treatment if it was not an experimental trial.The number of people with this condition from Mogadishu to Alabama suggests it's all about the money.

        "it may be a step towards further advances in this area."

        Now that actually might be true. As a structural model it seems about as simple a piece of the human body as you can get that performs a useful function and you directly apply drugs to.

        My initial take was this solves a problem that already has a 90% success rate in a clever but very expensive way.

        I remain underwhelmed. Please feel free to be as excited as you want to be.

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: So they've "solved" a problem that does not really exist?

          As we are talking about vision here - I can't help but feel that yours has room for improvement. "What could we possible be needing this newfangled wheel-thingy for? I can walk everywhere without it!"

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

      Ignoring more general implications of actually having created a working organ from stemcells (that can't be significant can it?) cataract surgery is a pretty simple procedure done under local anesthesia. The difficult part is managing the consequences of having a foreign body implanted in the eye. That's doable in a country with decent health care, not so much in the third world. So yes this does solve a real problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

        Not only that, if it becomes cheap and easy to regrow your lens that solves other problems like loss of close vision as you age and your lens loses its pliability. If you could go to the doctor at age 45 or whenever you start noticing your close vision being impacted, and have your lens replaced with new lens of your very own that give you the close vision of a child isn't that worth something? Or do you think you look good wearing reading glasses?

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

          @DougS: my better half thinks I look positively sexy* with my reading glasses. Apart from that, with you all the way.

          * She also doesn't like skinny men. Jackpot!

          1. Darryl

            Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

            My wife thinks I'm much sexier without glasses.

            Oh, wait, I meant to say 'when SHE is without HER glasses'

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

          DougS

          I am up for that!

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

          I didn't say the problem was rejection.Most such surgery goes well as the work of Fred Hollows* showed. But there's a small but significant proportion of cases which don't go well and there mostly the result of the eye not adapting well to something it didn't evolve to contain.

          *I'm not sure how well Hollows is known outside of Australia, but if you haven't heard of him look him up. Edit:I see you have heard of him.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

      Problem does exist.

      You cannot implant an artificial lens in a child until they are at least 4+ years old and the eye is fully formed. Keeping a child blind until then is a major development issue.

      I have some acquaintances which have adopted a child which was misdiagnosed as severely autistic and with developmental problems while the real problem was that the 5th world orphanage where they got her from did not pick up a +6 shortsightedness until the age of 4. It is taking YEARS and quite a lot of effort to correct for the first 4 that have been effectively lost.

      So even if this never makes it to be an adult treatment its value as a pediatric medical treatment is off the scale.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

        "while the real problem was that the 5th world orphanage where they got her from did not pick up a +6 shortsightedness until the age of 4."

        So fixable with a decent pair of glasses, not needing an implant at all then?

    4. MrXavia
      Thumb Up

      Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

      No, this is a real problem, this is amazing news, intra-ocular lenses are no amazing fix, they are fixed focus, they are no replacement for natural lenses...

      Hats off to the chinese scientists!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @MrXavia

        They aren't all fixed focus, look up accommodating interocular lenses. They can provide the range of accommodation you have later in life when you generally have cataracts, but not the range you have when you are young (but they are working on that too...and will probably beat the general availability of regrown natural lenses)

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: So they've "solvedcd" a problem that does not really exist?

      1: cataract lens surgery is cheap, but the lenses come with their own sets of problems (fixed focus)

      2: You've missed the _other_ avenue this opens up for repair - age-related farsightedness (currently driving me batshit.)

  2. James 51

    What was the source of the stem cells? Ethical and legal problems could end up holding progress in the field back.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Your answer James;

      "The repair and regeneration of tissues using endogenous stem cells represents an ultimate goal in regenerative medicine," the team says.

      So no rejection is likely as they are using the patients own cells.

      This is exciting just as the Russians had a ship since 1978 equipped to travel the world doing eye surgery for many who could not otherwise contemplate it, many relying on free glasses from charities like Oxfam.

      There is little or no reason why such a ship or ships could not be funded by the UN to do the same with this technology in the future.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. James 51

        I need to brush up on my terminology. Assuming that the work holds up (can't help but remember the Japanese STAP scandal when reading about new breakthroughs) it could be another useful tool.

    2. CarbonLifeForm

      From the article:

      "The work isolates lens epithelial stem or progenitor cells and preserves them in a surgical method that allows cataracts to be extracted."

      They went to lens epithelial cells, and embryonic stem cells have not differentiated sufficiently to be called lens anything. So it sounds like it's non-embryonic, and possibly even self-donated.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The eyes have it

    Chinese medicine, what could go wong?

  4. PassiveSmoking

    Number of paraplegics who can walk again thanks to science: 1

    Number of kids who can see again thanks to science: 12.

    Number of paraplegics who can walk again thanks to prayer: 0

    Number of kids who can see again thanks to prayer: 0

    Ball's in your court, prayer!

    1. CarbonLifeForm

      You may want to research miraculous cures with no medical explanation. Far, far, more than you're giving credit for here with zero...

      Facts and figures are not as clear cut as your bon mot. No, prayer does not always work. Neither does science.:-)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "No, prayer does not always work. Neither does science"

        The slight difference being that when science doesn't work you can find out why and correct for that. With prayer it's all down to the mood the sky fairy de jour is in and praying harder or differently doesn't help.

        If prayer was anything like reliable then you would be able to repeat the experience and vary the prayer in a measurable way to affect the outcome. With 1000's of years of "practice" you'd think the various religions would have prayer down pat by now instead of random hit or miss.

  5. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Author needs eye treatment

    I can't help thinking the author or subeditor needs eye treatment. This article is full of sloppy mistakes. (In the past I've used the Tips and corrections link, but lately it results in no acknowledgement and no correction.)

    "... boffins grows ..." - assuming there are several boffins, I think you mean "grow", the plural form of the verb.

    "Most

    Operation success rates..." - why the new paragraph in the middle of a sentence?

    "... the first instance regenerative medicine." - missing "of"?

    Unclosed quotation.

  6. Fursty Ferret

    <I>What was the source of the stem cells? Ethical and legal problems could end up holding progress in the field back.</I>

    The stem cells are already in the lens so no ethical issues involved. The procedure was trialled in children because they have far more stem cells in the lens than adults.

  7. CCCP

    Someone's been watching Blade Runner

    It's always the Chinese. Always.

    1. PassiveSmoking

      Re: Someone's been watching Blade Runner

      If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes

    2. kyza

      Re: Someone's been watching Blade Runner

      'Just eyes, see. Just Eyes. You Nexus huh? I design your eyes'

  8. BurnT'offering

    Good work!

    Well done!

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    This has been most educational.

    A real insight into how group think works.

    I'll say it again. The vast majority of who needs this treatment will simply not get it. They can't afford it.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: This has been most educational.

      So because there are people who can't afford treatment today, we shouldn't bother to do research or try to develop new ways of treating ailments?

      Many things that were far beyond normal peoples reach are more common today simply because the more a treatment is used the more is known about it so it becomes relatively cheaper, then the possibilities exist to bring such treatments to poor people. The world is unlikely ever to be perfect but that is not a reason to stop trying to make it so.

      Did you get your coffee this morning?

      1. DataSam

        Re: This has been most educational.

        Nay-sayer alert. Your medical costs complaint sounds hollow here. Everything about this procedure is likely to be less expensive than current practices. The use of endogenous cells, simpler protocols with fewer complications and no man-made, high-tech acrylic lens inserts all point toward a broader reach and lower medical costs. Does it get any simpler than regeneration?

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