The team from the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, pioneering a treatment using stem cell therapy to improve the sight of people born with a rare genetic eye disorder called aniridia.

Stem cells taken from dead donors, living relatives or even the patients themselves are grown in a laboratory until they form sheets and then transplanted on to the surface of the cornea.

It is a condition where people are born with no iris and who later develop problems with the surface of their eye, resulting in pain and loss of vision.

Until now very little could be done for the patients, most of whom go on to become virtually blind.

But eye specialist Sheraz Daya, from the Queen Victoria Hospital, said stem cell treatment appears to halt progress of the condition, which affects up to 1,000 people in the UK.

Four patients have so far received the treatment successfully in one eye and reported an improvement in their comfort and vision, and now await treatment in their other eye.

All had little or no vision because they had few or no limbal stem cells under the eyelid which help keep the surface of the cornea clear and healthy.

Mr Daya and his team at the corneoplastic unit at the Queen Victoria Hospital spent more than seven years perfecting their technique.

Outcomes of the trial will be revealed at an international conference of eye specialists in New Orleans later this year.

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