Stem Cell Therapy May Help Treat Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

A new medical development could help treat people whose eyes have been damaged by Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a rare reaction to certain medications that can cause blindness and death.

Sankara Nethralaya and Nichiin Bio Sciences of Japan recently announced the development of Mebiol Gel, a synthetic material that can be used as a catalyst to grow corneal stem cells from rabbits. The gel helps the stem cells to grow and also prevents the human body from rejecting the new cells, which may be able to help restore sight to some victims of SJS and corneal ulcers.

So far, Mebiol Gel has only been tested on rabbits, but the next step will be to test the gel on human subjects.

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Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is known to occur as a side effect of several medications, causing the skin to burn, producing blisters, severe rashes and the skin may begin to separate from the body. It can also cause eye damage that could lead to blindness. When the skin lesions affect more than 30% of the body, the condition is referred to as Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). Treatment in a hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Burn Unit is often required, and the conditions can be fatal in many cases.

While some estimates place the number of SJS deaths in the U.S. each year at 100,000, officials for the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to spreading awareness of the condition, indicate that it is impossible to tell how many lives are claimed each year, since there are no mandatory reporting rules for adverse drug reactions. There are no known estimates on the number of people struck blind by the drug reaction.

In some cases, drugs that cause the severe skin reactions do not carry sufficient warning for patients or doctors, leading to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome lawsuits filed against drug manufacturers.

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