NAIROBI -- As witnessed
recently at the Laser Eye Centre in Nairobi, the healthcare industry in Kenya
boasts high levels of practice and technological advancements.
Dr. Mukesh Joshi, Medical Director of the Laser Eye Centre, has successfully
conducted the stem cell transplant for the eyes.
The entire procedure was completed in less than three hours by Dr. Joshi and
Susan Muthoni, whose blindness was a result of a chemical injury of the eye,
was the recipient of the first treatment of the kind not only in Kenya but the
larger East Africa Region.
The patient had normal eye sight while in high school, but the laboratory
accident caused damaged to one of her eyes.
Muthoni’s quest to regain her sight seemed unachievable and expensive until
she came to know about the Laser Eye Centre in Westlands, Nairobi.
Stem cells are very important cells for the nutrition of the cornea which is
the first transparent part of the eye, what we call the window of the eye
through which rays of the light pass through and focus on the retina.
That is what enables vision.
At the junction of the white and black part of the eye, there are a million
tiny cells – these are known as stem cells.
The function of the stem cells is to give nutrition to the cornea to enable
it to maintain its clarity since the cornea does not have blood supply.
Due to injuries, like chemical injuries or infections, stem cells get damaged
which makes the cornea cloudy and a lot of blood vessels start to run on the
cornea as shown in the images below.
As seen in Susan’s case, her opposite eye was normal.
Dr. Mukesh Joshi transplanted stem cells from the opposite eye to the damaged
The stem cell transplant technology requires a lot of minute details.
The damaged part of the cornea is dissected out and all the damaged scars and
blood vessels are removed.
Once the the stem cells are taken from the opposite eye, they will not stick
to cornea, so a special membrane, known as the amniotic membrane, is derived
from the placenta (imported from the USA).
This membrane is applied with special glue (imported from the USA) so it can
stick to the damaged cornea.
This membrane and tiny islands of the stem cells are implanted, and special
glue is applied.
It is then covered by a bandaged contact lens.
Stem cells will gradually start repopulating and giving nutrition to the
superficial layer of the cornea since the cornea does not have blood supply.
With improved nutrition, the cornea will start becoming clear once the new
transplanted stem cells get repopulated.