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Better Vision May Be In Your Own Eyes

More than 1.2 million Americans suffer cornea damage from injuries and more than 40,000 people a year undergo cornea transplants to repair otherwise irreversible eyesight damage, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

A New study suggests that many who suffer corneal damage by chemical burn may successfully restore their sight with transplants from their own eye stem cells.

Researchers in Italy studied a technique to repair damaged corneas by using patients' own unscathed limbal stem cells -- found at the edge of the cornea -- to grow new tissue that was then grafted into the patient's own eyes. The experiment was tried on 112 patients with corneas damaged by chemical burns. It was successful in 78 percent of patients, according to researchers, who followed the patients for 10 years after the procedure.

A corneal transplant involves removing the central part of the diseased cornea _ called the button -- and replacing it with a donor's button. It is similar to other transplants -- and the donor's body must match the recipient's to avoid rejection. The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested a way to bypass the need for a donor match.

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