The Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) has renewed an agreement with the pharmaceutical company Ferrer and the universities of Valladolid and the Basque Country to work on the development of a stem–cell based therapy to regenerate the ocular surface.
Over ten million patients suffer from bilateral blindness due to pathologies that cause the cornea to become opaque. The researchers have been working on a method to reconstruct the ocular surface using bone marrow stem cells, which are cultured on a scaffold that reproduces the eye tissue and then implanted in the patient.
The IBEC’s role in the project has been to develop functionalised biomaterials that support and stimulate the growth of the stem cells to allow re-epithelisation of the damaged cornea. The scaffolds can be sutured to the patient’s eye where they serve as a temporary support to deliver the stem cells to the eye surface so that it can be regenerated. This part of the research is being carried out by the IBEC’s Biomaterials, Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering Research Group, whose founding trustees are the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), the University of Barcelona, and the Government of Catalonia.
After six years of work, led by the University of Valladolid’s Institute for Applied Ophthalmobiology, during the coming four years (the period covered by the new agreement), the researchers are planning to assess the robustness of the testing procedure, which has so far yielded promising results, with the ultimate goal of introducing the therapy into clinical practice.
The new agreement falls within the scope of the Biomedical Research Networking Centre in Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN), with which the research centres participating in the project are associated.
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