First stem-cell therapy approved for medical use in Europe

This treatment will only be allowed under carefully defined conditions, however, so that the outcomes can be carefully monitored to see if the treatment works and doesnt have any unexpected side-effects.

Stem cells can act as a repair system for the body.

Limbal stem cells are located in the eye at the border between the cornea the clear front part of the eye - and the sclera the white of the eye.

Physical or chemical burns can cause loss of these stem cells, resulting in limbal stem cell deficiency, LSCD, a condition that is estimated to affect about 3.3 out of 100,000 people in the European Union and around 650 people in Britain.

Symptoms include pain, sensitivity to light, inflammation, excessive blood vessel growth, clouding of the cornea, and eventually blindness.

In LSCD the limbal stem cells become so diminished that they eyes can no longer make new cells to repair damage.

The new treatment takes a small sample of the patients healthy cornea, removes the stem cells and grows them until there are sufficient numbers to put back into the eye. The cells themselves then repair the damage.

Moorfields Eye Hospital in London has successfully treated around 20 people with Holocar so far in trials.

Prof Chris Mason, from University College London, told the BBC: "This move would enable far more people to access it, you could now prescribe this."

The EMA decision to approve Holoclar will now be sent to the European Commission for market authorization. It will then be up to Nice to decide whether to approve the therapy for use on the NHS.

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First stem-cell therapy approved for medical use in Europe

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