Study shows stem cells constitute alternative approach for treating corneal scarring

Infection, inflammation, trauma, disease, contact lenses—all of these and more can lead to corneal scarring, which according to the World Health Organization is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. While corneal transplant remains the gold standard to treat this condition, patient demand far outweighs donor supply. However, in a study released today in Stem Cells Translational Medicine researchers demonstrate a potential solution to this major problem.

The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye that not only protects the eye, but allows light to enter and provides as much as 75 percent of the eye’s focusing power. When scarring occurs, the cornea clouds over and impacts vision. The stroma—the thick middle layer of the cornea—plays a pivotal role in normal visual function as it produces a variety of cellular products that support normal corneal development and maintenance.

“As such, corneal stromal stem cells (SSCs) show promise for replacing conventional donor tissues as they are potentially able to regenerate the corneal stromal extracellular matrix, which is essential for maintaining corneal transparency,” said study leader Vincent Borderie, M.D., Ph.D., and first author Djida Ghoubay, Ph.D, both of the Institut de la Vision, Sorbonne Université, INSERM and CNRS. “Additionally, SSCs can be easily retrieved and cultured from the patient’s or donor’s eye.”

With this in mind, the two and their team, which included researchers from several other institutions in Paris, set out to determine the therapeutic effect of these adult stem cells and whether they might indeed restore the cornea to its pre-injured state. They tested their theory on a new mouse model created especially for the study.

Younger mice (four weeks old) were selected, as the researchers were hoping to mimic a stromal scarring condition called keratoconus that generally occurs in teenagers or young adults. They sedated the mice, then did an epithelial scraping followed by an application of liquid nitrogen (N2) to the corneal surface of each mouse’s left eye. Its right eye was left untouched for comparison.

After the injured corneas had scarred over and become opaque—approximately three weeks after injury—the mice were divided into groups. One group received injections of murine (mouse) stromal stem cells (MSSCs) at the injured site. A second group received injections of human stromal stem cells (HSSCs). A third group received sham injections, and a fourth group received no SSCs, as a control. The animals’ eyes were then examined for several indicators of corneal health, with the assessments occurring just before the N2 application and then repeated in intervals up to three months after.

“Results showed that injection of SSCs resulted in improved corneal transparency associated with corneal SSC migration and growth in the recipient stroma without inflammatory response. Moreover, decreased stromal haze, corneal rigidity and improved vision were observed,” Dr. Borderie reported.

Dr. Ghoubay added, “Interestingly, the injected HSSCs showed a different fate compared with the MSSCs. In fact, the former were still detected three months after injection, whereas the latter were no longer detected following the first month. As labeling is lost with cell divisions, we can hypothesize that xenogeneic HSSC divide slower than allogeneic MSSC after injection.”

“In conclusion,” Drs. Borderie and Ghoubay said, “our study demonstrates the ability of corneal SSCs to promote regeneration of transparent stromal tissue. Injection of corneal SSCs can constitute an alternative approach in the treatment of corneal scarring.”

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Kelly Clarkson Says Son Is Finding His Personality After Singer Initially Thought He Was 'Deaf'

"The one qualification that most people don't have to be a teacher, it's not even the education as much as it is the patience," she adds. "It's so hard to keep your mind and emotional state together. We're used to going to a place of business and working and then coming home and that's your relaxed place, and that's where you have fun. The same thing for kids [with school]."

"On top of that, we thought we were going to be here for a minute, but we didn't know we were going to be here this long and we don't have a home here. So we've been staying in a cabin," Clarkson shares. "We've been in really close quarters and it's been kind of nuts, I'm not going to lie."

"At the end of the day, I know people who have had coronavirus and I'm just very lucky and we're very blessed to not have been sick," she notes. "We keep reminding our kids of that and we keep reminding each other of that. But we definitely have some cabin fever going on."

Moms-to-be can enter for the ShowHER Love event at

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The role of miRNAs in glioblastoma multiforme

Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most malignant tumors of the central nervous system. It is characterized by the fast growth and high malignancy. Although surgery combined with radiation therapy and chemotherapy has been widely used for the treatment of glioblastoma, the prognosis is still very poor. Furthermore, chemoresistance and radioresistance are the typical hallmarks of the recurrent glioblastoma. Thus, it is necessary to identify all the potential therapeutic targets for glioblastoma and to clarify its underlying mechanism.

In recent years, attention has been paid to the role of microRNAs in the development, diagnosis, and prognosis of gliomas. Thus, the team of researchers from the Cancer Hospital of China Medical University revealed that miR-129-5p, and ZFP36L1 gene were functionally involved in the hallmarks glioblastoma. This includes the tumor proliferation, migration, and tumor colony-forming abilities.

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Obesity is linked to gut microbiota disturbance, but not among statin-treated individuals

In 2012, the European Union MetaCardis consortium, comprising 14 research groups from six European countries with multidisciplinary expertise set out to investigate a potential role of the gut microbiota in the development of cardio-metabolic diseases. This project, coordinated by Prof Karine Clément at INSERM (France) studies more than 2,000 deeply phenotyped European participants in health and at different stages of cardiometabolic disease (obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases).

Today, research teams led by Jeroen Raes (VIB-KU Leuven) and Prof. Clément (INSERM, Paris), together with the Metacardis consortium, publish their first findings in the authoritative journal Nature, identifying the common cholesterol-lowering drug statins as a potential microbiota-modulating therapeutic.

In their manuscript entitled “Statin therapy associates with lower prevalence of gut microbiota dysbiosis,” Jeroen Raes (VIB-KU Leuven) and colleagues explore gut bacteria in a Metacardis cohort subset comprising nearly 900 individuals from three countries (France, Denmark and Germany) with BMI ranging between 18 and 73 kg.m-2. While the intestinal microbiota in obese individuals had previously been shown to differ from those in lean subjects, the unique experience of the Raes Lab in quantitative microbiome profiling allowed the researchers to shed a whole new light on microbiota alterations associated with obesity.

Prof. Jeroen Raes says, “Recently, our lab identified a single gut microbiota configuration (enterotype) with increased prevalence among patients suffering from intestinal inflammation (inflammatory bowel disease), multiple sclerosis, and depression. We observed this disturbed enterotype to be characterized by low bacterial abundances and biodiversity, notably deficient in some anti-inflammatory bacteria such as Faecalibacterium. In fact, even among healthy individuals, we detected slightly higher inflammation levels in carriers of what we refer to as the Bacteroides2 (Bact2) enterotype. As obesity is known to result in increased systemic inflammation levels, we hypothesized that Bact2 would also be more prevalent among obese study participants.”

Exploring gut microbiota configurations of lean and obese volunteers, the MetaCardis researchers observed that Bact2 prevalence increased with BMI. While only 4% of lean and overweight subjects were characterized as Bact2 carriers, percentages sharply rose to 19% among obese volunteers. The same trend was observed among 2,350 participants of the VIB-KU Leuven Flemish Gut Flora Project population cohort.

Sara Vieira-Silva (principal author, VIB-KU Leuven): “We found systemic inflammation in participants carrying the Bact2 enterotype to be higher than expected based on their BMI. Even though this study design does not allow inferring causality, our analyses do suggest that gut bacteria play a role in the process of developing obesity-associated comorbidities by sustaining inflammation. While these key findings confirmed our study hypothesis, the results we obtained when comparing statin-treated and -untreated participants came as a total surprise.”

Statins are commonly prescribed to reduce risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases. Besides their target cholesterol-lowering effects, statins also tend to appease patients’ systemic inflammation levels. Now, Vieira-Silva and colleagues have identified an additional potential beneficial effect of statin therapy on the gut microbiota. In obese individuals, the prevalence of the dysbiotic Bact2 enterotype was significantly lower in those taking statins (6%) than in their non-treated counterparts (19%) – comparable to levels observed in non-obese participants (4%). These striking observations were validated not only in the independent Flemish Gut Flora Project dataset, but also in an additional MetaCardis subset consisting of 280 patients with cardiovascular diseases.

Sara Vieira-Silva says, “These results suggest statins could potentially modulate the harmful gut microbiota alterations sustaining inflammation in obesity. Several interpretations of our results remain possible. On one hand, by appeasing gut inflammation, statin therapy might contribute to a less hostile gut environment, allowing the development of a healthy microbiota. On the other hand, a direct impact of statins on bacterial growth has been previously demonstrated, which could possibly benefit non-inflammatory bacteria and underlie anti-inflammatory effects of statin therapy.”

For many years, microbiota modulation strategies have been revolving around dietary interventions, (next-generation) pro- and prebiotics, introducing or promoting growth of beneficial bacteria. Only recently, a revived interest in the effect of small molecules and drugs on the colon ecosystem appeared. This study will further fuel that momentum.

Prof. Jeroen Raes says, “The potential beneficial impact of statins on the gut microbiota opens novel perspectives in disease treatment, especially given the fact that we have associated the Bact2 enterotype with several pathologies in which a role of the gut microbiota has been postulated. Our results open a whole range of possibilities for novel, gut microbiota modulating drug development.”

At the same time, the MetaCardis team insists on a careful interpretation of their study results.

While promising, the findings reported are based on cross-sectional analyses, as opposed to following a treatment timeline. This means causality cannot be claimed based on these observations, nor can the researchers exclude that unaccounted factors could have played a role. For example, statin-medicated participants might have adopted a radically healthy lifestyle after being diagnosed with an increased risk of developing cardio-metabolic disease, which could have had a profound impact on their gut ecosystem.

“Thus,” the researchers warn, “while our results are definitely promising, they require further evaluation in a prospective clinical trial to ascertain whether the effect is reproducible in a randomized population, before considering the application of statins as microbiota-modulating therapeutics.”

The present study is part of a greater effort in unraveling the role of the gut microbiota in cardiovascular disease by the European Commission-sponsored MetaCardis consortium.

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Celebs and Their Look-Alike Kids

Celebrities and Their Lookalike Kids

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! These celebrity parents, like Cindy Crawford, Jennifer Garner, and Tom Hanks, all share striking similarities — and features! — with their cute kids. Click through to see these stars (and more!) and their look-alike children!

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Patients with prostate cancer to get pills at home instead of chemotherapy

Recently sufferers had been dealt a double blow of being told they had the killer disease but could not be given treatment. Targeted hormonal therapies enzalutamide and abiraterone will now be temporarily available after new guidance from NHS England. The tablets will allow patients to minimise their risk of infection by staying away from hospitals.

Previously they were only for men who had tried other forms of hormone treatment.

Prostate Cancer UK said about 1,000 men will benefit from the change over the next three months.

The charity’s Heather Blake said: “This is fantastic news for newly diagnosed men. Until now, they have been faced with the distressing prospect that chemotherapy – which could extend their life by 15 months – was not being made available due to the increased risk from Covid-19.”

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, welcomed the move but said it had taken too long. Professor Nick James, who is researching how best to treat prostate cancer, said the drugs were “smarter, kinder treatments”.

Stuart Fraser, 66, who was diagnosed in February, started a petition for the drugs to made available to men in his situation. He is now been prescribed enzalutamide.

The father of two, from Ashtead, Surrey, said: “Being diagnosed was a huge shock. What made it even more worrying was that – because of coronavirus – I was told I couldn’t have the usual treatment of chemotherapy, which would have affected my immune system. That’s why it’s such great news that NHS England have made this change.”

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Chris Hemsworth Is 'Constantly Trying to Find Balance' as a Working Dad

A work in progress! Chris Hemsworth is still figuring out how to be present for his three children as a successful actor.

“I’ve spent probably 15 years in what felt like a marathon, a constant workload,” the Thor star, 36, told GQ Australia in his May cover story, published Tuesday, May 5. “So much of my energy has been geared towards that, and then having kids at the same time, I’ve been constantly trying to find the balance. I’ve really yearned for more stillness and felt a definite need to slow down. Not having a schedule in front of me [during the coronavirus pandemic] has made me reposition my values and what’s important, and I think most people are having those kinds of thoughts right now.”

The Australian star admitted that it has been “harder and harder” to be away from daughter India, 7, and twin sons Sasha and Tristan, 6, as they’ve gotten older.

“For a little while, you don’t think the kids notice and then you realize they do,” Hemsworth explained to the magazine. “I absolutely want to continue to make films that I’m proud of, but that can also wait. Now what’s more important is my kids are at an age I don’t want to miss. And I’d hate to look back in 20 years and go, ‘Right, let’s get to work as a parent’ and I’ve missed it all.”

In June 2019, the Rush star announced that he was taking an acting break to spend more time with his children and his wife, Elsa Pataky.

“This year, I probably won’t shoot anything,” Hemsworth told Australia’s Daily Telegraph at the time. “I just want to be at home now with my kids. They are at a very important age. They are still young and they are aware when I leave more than before.”

Despite his roles in hit movies, including Avengers: Endgame and The Cabin in the Woods, Hemsworth “couldn’t be less cool” in India, Sasha and Tristan’s eyes.

He explained on Tuesday: “I get a kick out of it when they actually enjoy my movies, but there’s also an equal share of eye-rolls. … It’s nature’s way of telling me the truth. You can fall into a false sense of self-importance on a film set, where you feel you’re special, so it’s good to remind yourself that it’s not the case. And kids certainly drive that home.”

Hemsworth and Pataky, 43, tied the knot in December 2010.

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Laws that punish pregnant drug abusers aren’t working, new study finds

A new study co-authored by a University of Central Florida researcher shows that laws that punish substance use during pregnancy actually do more harm than good.

These unintended consequences include keeping women from getting the treatment they need and failing to reduce the number of babies addicted to drugs.

The study, which was published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, compared the effects of punitive polices in states that implemented them and those that didn’t.

The findings are increasingly important as instances of opioid use disorder at delivery continue to rise.

“Opioid use during pregnancy can harm both the mother and baby, and rates of opioid use disorder at delivery increased over 300 percent between 1999 and 2014,” said Danielle Atkins, an assistant professor in UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education and study co-author.

“States have taken various approaches to address prenatal substance use, including policies that consider prenatal substance use as equivalent to child abuse or neglect,” Atkins said. “In our study, we did not find evidence that having a punitive prenatal-substance-use policy reduced rates of babies born with withdrawal symptoms or maternal narcotic exposure at birth.”

“We found evidence, however, that punitive policies reduce substance use treatment admissions among pregnant women and that a smaller share of pregnant women are referred to treatment by health care providers in states with punitive policies,” she said.

For the study, Atkins and co-author Christine Piette Durrance, an associate professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, used data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s State Inpatient Databases, which has records for 95 percent of hospital discharges from 37 states.

From that data, they counted the number of babies born with withdrawal symptoms and affected by maternal narcotics exposure from 2000 to 2014.

They also used data from the Treatment Episode Data Set—Admissions, a national data system of annual admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities, to identify the number of pregnant women admitted to treatment by state and year.

For prenatal substance use policies implemented in different states, they used information from the Guttmacher Institute, State Policies in Brief, Substance Abuse During Pregnancy, bi-annual reports.

When they compared the proportion of pregnant women admitted to treatment before punitive policies were enacted to after, and with states that had those policies and those that didn’t, they found that treatment admissions for pregnant women dropped by 29 percent and referrals to treatment by health care professionals decreased by 18 percent when punitive laws were put in place.

Furthermore, punitive policies were not statistically significantly related to the number of babies born with withdrawal symptoms or exposed to narcotics.

“These results provide population-based evidence of the effect of punitive prenatal substance use policies on birth outcomes and substance use treatment admissions,” Atkins said. “Although proponents of punitive prenatal-substance-use policies often cite improved birth outcomes for infants as one policy aim, our results do not support this.”

She said alternatives to punitive laws include improved access to medication-assisted treatment with methadone or buprenorphine, along with prenatal care and behavioral health counseling.

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Katie Maloney Stuns in ‘Pump Rules’ Reunion Dress After 20-Lb Weight Loss

All dressed up with a reunion to (virtually) attend! Katie Maloney showed off her slimmer figure in her Vanderpump Rules season 8 reunion dress.

“Season 8 Reunion Look! We may have been socially distant but it was still 🔥🔥🔥!” the 33-year-old captioned a photo of herself in front of the stairs at her Los Angeles home on Tuesday, May 5, via Instagram.

Fans were quick to flood the comment section with compliments for Maloney, who opened up about tweaking her diet last month.

“I’ve lost a little over 20 pounds. It feels good,” the reality TV personality explained on April 19, noting that she went to the doctor after she was struggling to shed pounds with her current diet. “I think it’s really important to also check up on your health because even though it wasn’t a thyroid thing, I did discover that my glucose levels were pretty high and that could’ve led to some maybe pre-diabetic problems. From there, I met a really great nutritionist who helped me understand how to eat for my metabolism, especially with being insulin resistant or insulin-sensitive.”

Season 8 Reunion Look! We may have been socially distant but it was still 🔥🔥🔥! Tap for outfit details.

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Maloney added that she now has a “great understanding on nutrition” and “what kinds of food” she should and shouldn’t be eating.

“I’m not dieting,” she explained. “But I just have a wealth of knowledge on what kind of foods to be eating.”

The former SURver, who has had to deal with body-shaming on recent seasons of Vanderpump Rules, has been open about her body image struggles in the past.

“For the last 3 years I let MY BODY become a topic of conversation,” she wrote in March 2019 via Instagram. “I say ‘let’ because I didn’t have the courage or self love [to] argue it. FOR 3 YEARS. I’m not perfect. I know who I am. But I’m not a weak bitch.”

The day before Maloney debuted her reunion look, Andy Cohen confirmed that the season 8 special taped via Zoom on Thursday, April 30.

“It was a great reunion,” he dished on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy on Monday, May 4. “Really good.”

Vanderpump Rules airs on Bravo Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.

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