Limbal Stem Cells - Irish Blood Transfusion Service

Limbal Stem Cells

As of 2016 The Tissue Bank is licensed by the HPRA to produce Limbal Stem Cells as an Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Product (ATMP).

The Limbal Stem Cell programme is the first of its kind in Ireland and is currently the only treatment available which can reverse the blindness caused by acquired or inherited limbal stem cell deficiency.

 

What are Limbal Stem Cells?

These are stem cells normally produced in the Limbus area of the healthy eye throughout an individual’s lifetime.  Stem cells are a type of cell which can reproduce and provide many many new cells in order to replenish and replace those which are damaged. The outer layer of the cornea (the epithelium) is constantly being damaged by bits of dust or particles which enter the eye. This normal “wear and tear” of the cornea is repaired by the new replenishing cells produced by Limbal Stem Cells. 

When a person has a limbal stem cell deficiency, the replenishing cells are not produced and the surface epithelium of a person’s eye becomes gradually more damaged over time.  This is a painful and progressive deteriorating condition which eventually leads to blindness.

The Limbal Stem Cell therapy provided by the IBTS Tissue Bank allows the transplantation of new healthy limbal stem cells, which will begin to reproduce and repair the patients’ cornea naturally. The therapy can relieve pain and restore vision, significantly improving quality of life of the patient.

The first limbal stem cell transplant in Ireland was performed by Professor William Power at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin. This transplant event is the culmination of many years of research within the Tissue Bank and collaboration with Dr. Martin Clynes and Dr. Finbarr O’Sullivan of NICB, DCU, and Mr. William Power of the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital.