Girl Gains Partial Sight After Stem Cell Treatments

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Four-year-old Izabelle Evans of the United Kingdom is able to see her Christmas tree this year following stem cell treatments in China. Izabelle, who was born blind as a result of septo-optic dysplasia, can now see objects that are up to three feet away.

Stem cell treatments not available in the UK

Izabelle’s parents, James Evans and Hollie McHugh, raised the necessary 50,000 pounds with the help of other concerned individuals and spent more than a month in Tsingtao, where their daughter underwent stem cell treatments five days a week. The result?

Ms. McHugh said in a UK Telegraph interview that “we thought that if it did work it may be a bit of light perception but for her to be able to tell the difference between faces and objects has been amazing.” A video of Izabelle as she enjoys her Christmas tree can be seen online.

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According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, septo-optic dysplasia is a rare condition characterized by an abnormal optic disk, deficiencies of the pituitary gland, and frequently the absence of the part of the brain that separates the lateral ventricles. Symptoms may include blindness in one or both eyes, low muscle tone, hormonal problems, pupil dilation in response to light, and involuntary, rapid to-and-fro movement of the eyes (nystagmus).

Most children have some level of developmental delay associated with their visual impairment or neurological problems. In some cases, children display learning disabilities or mental retardation. Treatment is largely symptomatic, with hormone replacement for hormone deficiencies and vision, physical, and occupational therapies for other challenges.

Izabelle’s parents discovered information about the controversial stem cell treatments online, and it is not available in the UK. The treatment involves injecting the stem cells, which are harvested from the umbilical cords of healthy babies, into the spinal cord.

SOURCES:
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
UK Telegraph, Dec. 16, 2010

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