2-year-old gets back vision after stem cell transplant

A Stem cell transplant has given a new lease of life to a two-year-old partially blind child. Pratik Patil,son of a farmer from Kolhapur,was treated for Xerosis (severe dryness of the eye) recently.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: February 12, 2009 2:00:39 am

A Stem cell transplant has given a new lease of life to a two-year-old partially blind child. Pratik Patil,son of a farmer from Kolhapur,was treated for Xerosis (severe dryness of the eye) recently.

Pratik was severely malnourished and has a history of tuberculosis (TB). His eyes turned dry because of the ailment. “His left eye’s cornea turned white and the vision was very low,” said Dr Sonia Nankani,consultant eye specialist,Tapadia Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO) at Bombay Hospital. Arun Patil (32),Pratik’s father said,“For a year we have been coming to Mumbai for treatment of TB. Slowly he developed partial blindness and could figure only hand movements.”

“Stem cell transplant for this particular disorder is being done in India’s premier eye institutes for the past 10 years,however,we had to wait as there was no laboratory to cultivate these tissues and it cannot be transported as cell lines can die. We had to send patients to Hyderabad (LV Prasad Eye Institute) or down south in Pondicherry (Arvind Eye Institute) or Delhi (AIIMS) that have a dedicated laboratory to culture stem cells,” said Dr Nankani.

The operation was done with Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved commercially available cultivated limbal stem cells.

“In this technique biopsy (of three millimeter) is done from the limbus (site where clear cornea merges with the white of the eye) of the good eye. Later the cells are cultivated on the piece of amniotic membrane in a laboratory and after 14 to 21 days the membrane full of cells is transplanted. Bandaged contact lenses are then fitted,though it is not necessary,to keep the transplanted membrane in place,” said Dr Nankani adding,“The amniotic membrane at the laboratory is put under a battery of tests to confirm that it is disease free.”

TIO took up cost of the entire operation and also gave Rs 44,000 for cultivation of stem cells.

The boy can now see from both his eyes. “It’s been a month since the operation and the boy is on the road to recovery. He will have to follow up once every 15 days. He can now lead a normal life with eye drops,” said Dr Nankani.

What causes Xerosis
Doctors are increasingly seeing a rise in Xerosis cases in the city. This they attribute to the lifestyle of the people. “Drying up of the eyes or a burning sensation in the eyes is increasingly seen in Mumbai and this is due to constant exposure to computers for long hours,air conditioners,increasing pollution,smoking during pregnancy,post menopause et al. Office goers,farmers among others who are constantly exposed to sunlight are some of the patients. Not just dryness,a lot of people cannot face sunlight,this is one step near to serious Xerosis as there is erosion of the cornea,” said Dr Sonia Nankani who sees at least 3 to 4 such cases everyday. Tear substitutes are recommended to some but only on the doctor’s advice.

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