Stem Cells And Sight

A number of families from the United States have traveled to China for stem cell treatments that are not available at home. Most of the initial promising results are related to some rare nerve diseases of the eye, and below you will find a number of stories chronicling the experiences of children who have undergone treatment.

Stem cells are also being researched for their potential in healing other ocular problems, including corneal and retinal repair and regeneration.

Kentucky Family Returns From China With New Hope

By BARBARA GOLDMAN, Staff Writer Thursday, January 8, 2009 1:15 AM EST

Since returning home from China, the Nolder family has already begun to notice changes that will forever enhance their lives.

Ryan Nolder, 7, has lived his life with the daily impact of being visually impaired by optic nerve hypoplasia. Ryan has had no vision in his left eye and very limited vision in his right. He is legally blind, and until recently he had no hope of improvement.

With the help of the local community, the Nolder family recently made a month-long trip to China where Ryan received a new treatment that uses umbilical stem cells to regenerate the optic nerve. Although Ryan's vision will never be perfect, it may be vastly improved.

Ryan and his parents, Troy and Amanda Nolder of Orangeburg, began what has been termed "the adventure of a lifetime" over a month ago and returned home on Dec. 29.

"In three weeks, after seven years, he was holding a paper and seeing words. It hits you that his life will be forever changed," said Amanda Nolder. "It's really overwhelming and changes are happening every day."

Amanda Nolder said after two days of flying, the family arrived in China. The hospital where Ryan was treated had not only translators for the English speaking family to utilize, but also everyone on their hospital floor spoke English.

"It made it a lot easier," said Amanda Nolder. "It was one of my biggest worries."

The family spent the majority of time at the hospital. Ryan received treatment every four days. The procedure from start to finish was 30 minutes long. Following the treatment Ryan had to lay on his back and not move for six hours.

"He did great," said Amanda Nolder. "He knew he had to do it."

At the end of Ryan's month of treatments, he received some test to see how his vision had so far improved. The test showed his left eye had light perception and he could even make out large letters. That had never happened before, his mother said.

"We were amazed," said Amanda Nolder. "We still don't know just how much he's going to improve. We have to be patient."

Ryan will receive another test in three months to show how much his vision has improved.

Read the rest of the story at The Ledger Independent Online here.

Stem Cell Treatment Gives New Vision To Chinese Girl

January 02, 2009 - Stem Cell research Blog

Hayley Pelletier an eight year Chinese girl the world of light and dark gave way to colors. After a month of stem cell treatment in Hangzhou, China, Hayley’s vision improved considerably.  Now, she is more aware of what’s going on around her, as her mother explains,

Hayley was suffering from optic nerve hypoplasia, that is a medical condition characterized by underdevelopment of optic nerves. The optic nerves stretching from her eye to brain failed to develop fully. Hayley received injections stem cell injections to treat her blindness.

Heather Pelletier, Hayley’s mother contacted Beike Biotech, a firm based in Plainfield, Ill with an office in China. The expenses for the treatment was $20,000 excluding the cost of traveling and lodging. She was assisted by her Co-workers, friends and service organizations who contributed $16,000.

In China, Hayley received six rounds of stem cell. The first was given though IV and the rest were injected in to the spinal column. For the last five rounds Hayley was anaesthetized. After each injection she had to lie flat.

Although its too soon to predict about the effectiveness of treatment. However, Heather admits that the improvement was significant. Before the treatment her left eye was completely blind. It could see light and dark only, but now she can see color and movement in the left eye. She can now recognize a laptop three to four feet away.

Effectiveness of the treatment can only be realized after appointment with her ophthalmologist in three months.

More stories to come - please check back often.