Up until now, a cure for blindness is something that we've only been able to dream of, or only see in science-fiction movies. However, that could all be about to change thanks to an incredible new scientific breakthrough out of Scotland using donated eye tissue.
According to Good News Network, eight patients have reportedly had their eyesight repaired after tissue was harvested from the eyes of deceased donors. With such incredible results coming out of the trials, this pioneering procedure could very well prove to be a potential cure for blindness.
This new research comes from a study conducted out of Scotland by the University of Edinburgh. All of the candidates who undeBrwent the treatment were afflicted with a common ailment that damages the cornea, leading to loss of sight. The study showed that millions of people could be helped with the treatment which is being hailed as a "world first".
The research focused on limbal stem cells, which patients with corneal blindness usually lack, leaving them open to infection. Further damage then happens to the eye, which can lead to painful irritation.
According to the study, which was published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, the team was able to use donated eyes to harvest samples and grow the stem cells required to repair damaged eyes. Over the course of 18 months, the selected patients were monitored closely and all showed impressive improvement.
This clinical trial is one of the only ones to use stem cells in this way, and the study team hopes they won't be the last. Two patients - a man in his 80s and a woman in her 60s - were even able to read again following the procedure.
Over 3.4 million people in the US alone are legally blind, or have a visual field of fewer than 20 degrees, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Worldwide, there are more than 285 million. Researchers hope that this huge step will see the treatment become widely used as a way to give people the precious gift of their sight.
While there isn't any evidence to suggest it can help individuals who were born blind, it's an important step in exploring other avenues that could lead to successful treatment.
What's more, the application of stem cell potential goes far beyond sight and could be used in a wider range of medical treatments. The team is looking forward to their research being used as a stepping stone for bigger and better things.
Here's to the future - it might be here sooner than we think.