By Adrian Galbreth
A scientist who led a study which explored using stem cells from hair follicles to treat the eye disease has been named the winner of a prestigious award.
The 2011 Young Investigator Award, run by the journal Stem Cells, will be presented to Dr Ewa Meyer-Blazejewska at the Stem Cell Symposium, hosted by the University of Kragujevac, in Serbia on October 15th.
It is given annually to a young scientist whose paper has been judged to be of worldwide significance by a global jury, and is worth $10,000 (£6,500) to the winner.
Dr Meyer-Blazejewska, from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, in Germany, will be honoured for her research into Limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD), a condition which causes the cornea to become cloudy and develop a rough surface, causing pain and eventually blindness.
At the moment, treatments focus on harvesting Limbal cells from a patient's healthy eye or from cadaveric tissue, but the expert's study considered the potential use of stem cells harvested from hair follicles to reconstruct damaged tissue for patients who suffer from the disease in both eyes.
The study results showed an 80 per cent rate of differentiation in mouse eyes following a cell transplant, which highlights the promising therapeutic potential of these cells.
In the paper, she noted: "I hope the results in our paper will be instrumental for the advancement of research in the areas of stem cell niche, stemness and differentiation, which will aid in the treatment of LSCD as well as other ocular and non-ocular diseases."
Dr Miodrag Stojkovi?, editor of Stem Cells, said that new scientists are the "life-force" for stem cell research.
"Young scientists are vital for advancing stem cell science, providing exciting and essential new insights, and propelling the field of regenerative medicine with new discoveries that impact many kinds of malignant or degenerative disorders," he added.
by Adrian Galbreth