A new preventative treatment for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is being developed by experts in the UK in the hope it will reduce blindness statistics in young people.
A team led by Dr Derek Brazil from the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science at Queen"s University in Belfast is investigating whether stem cells from babies" own umbilical cords might repair their damaged eyes and save their sight.
Along with colleagues Dr Michelle Hookham, Dr Reinhold Medina and centre director Professor Alan Stitt, Dr Brazil was awarded a two-year grant by Action Medical Research to undertake the work.
"Our work will hopefully reveal whether vascular stem cells have the potential to repair damage to babies" eyes. If so, it is possible that in the future vascular stem cells could be grown in the laboratory in case treatment is needed," he added.
Recent published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that an injection of bevacizumab, also known as Avastin, could reduce the risk of retinal detachment in premature infants and reduce the need for contact lenses later in life.
by Adrian Galbreth