Cell therapy shows exciting potential for keratoconus

Dermot McGrath

Posted: Monday, June 18, 2018

Jorge L. Alió MD, PhD

Corneal stromal enhancement based on cell therapy seems to be safe and effective and may prove to a potentially exciting new therapy for the treatment of keratoconus and other corneal dystrophies, according to Jorge L. Alió MD, PhD, speaking at a special session on corneal disease at the World Ophthalmology Congress in Barcelona.

“Based on our results, we believe that adipose‐derived adult stem cells can be a cell source for stromal regeneration and repopulation in diseased corneas. This is a new type of corneal surgery, the beginning of a new approach for the treatment of corneal stromal diseases such as keratoconus,” said Dr Alió.

The ADASC technique, which consists of implantation of autologous adipose tissue-derived stem cells (ADSCs) into corneal stroma, has been successfully tested in the first human trials in five patients with advanced keratoconus.

In the trial, stem cells were obtained from the adipose tissue of each patient via liposuction. Once the cultured cells were prepared, a 9.5-mm diameter intrastromal pocket was created using a femtosecond laser with the patient under topical anaesthesia. The surgeons then used a cannula to transfer over 1 million cells through the pocket into the stroma.

“At one year the corneal transparency was very good and some corneal scars continue to improve. The visual condition also improved in most cases, with stable keratometry and corneal thickness. Confocal microscopy showed a significant increase in cells and no complications were reported,” said Dr Alió.

To confirm these early results,  a multicentre clinical trial of the pioneering technique sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Health is currently being conducted.