A unique technology for growing cornea from living donor stem cells was developed by ophthalmologist Charles Bouchard of Loyola University Medical Center. His first patient was Debra Astrug, who has long suffered from severe limbal stem cell deficiency. The donor was her daughter, Jessica, from whom two pieces of tissue were taken from the cornea of her left eye.
Before that, stem cells from deceased people were usually used as donor material. A serious drawback of this technology is the rejection of transplanted tissues. To minimize this process, the patient had to be given immunosuppressive drugs that cause serious side effects and increase the risk of dangerous infections.
The solution to this problem was the use of stem cells from a living donor, which is in the first degree of relationship with the patient. The operation proceeds as follows. First, a microscopic scratch is made on the patient's cornea. Then two pieces of tissue with stem cells are removed from the donor, which are transplanted into the patient's eye and fixed there with special biological glue. Within about a month, the donor tissue grows to the required size and the patient's vision is restored.