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Breakthrough in Congenital Cataract Treatment Using Endogenous Stem Cells: Nature Published an Original Research Article by Professor Yizhi Liu’s International Team

Source: Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center of Sun Yat-sen University

Edited by: Liu Nian


On March 9, after 18 years of research, the international research team led by Professor Yizhi Liu, Director of Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center (ZOC), Eye Hospital and State Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology, Sun Yat-sen University (SKLO, SYSU), eventually made a major breakthrough. They use endogenous stem cells to regenerate transparent lens in situ, the first-of-its-kind human physical tissue and organ regeneration with physiological functions. Additionally, they have applied the therapy in clinical treatment for congenital cataract, creating a new approach to applying stem cells to tissue and organ repair. This original research achievement was published in Nature on March 9, 2016. According to the comments published in the same issue, this research is a significant direction for future vision restoration.


On the morning of March 11, ZOC held a press conference to formally present the above major research achievement to the public. This conference was hosted by Professor Xiaofeng Lin, Deputy Director of ZOC and Eye Hospital.


A gecko can regrow its broken tail, but human can’t regrow their lost tissues or organs. We can only replace them with foreign tissues and organs, or artificial organs like artificial limbs, but foreign organs have immunological rejection and artificial organs lack bioactivity.” Professor Yizhi Liu said at the conference. In plain and vivid language, he explained the principle of congenital cataract treatment using endogenous stem cells. He mentioned that, nowadays, among artificial organs, artificial lens used for cataract treatment is the one in most application, but this kind of lens is unsuitable for growing infants. The development of stem cell technologies brings hope in tissue and organ regeneration. However, most present stem cell technologies adopt injection of exogenous stem cells, which has not succeeded yet.


Professor Yizhi Liu presents the research achievement

Professor Yizhi Liu’s team has used endogenous stem cells to achieve in situ regeneration of lens and applied the therapy for infants with congenital cataract. The research team has found that lens exists in endogenous epithelial stem cells and proved that Pax6 and Bmil are core factors in maintaining self-renewal and differentiation. In today’s regular cataract surgery, a big incision into the capsular bag damages endogenous epithelial stem cells and leads to the failure of lens regeneration. To solve these problems, his team has created a brand new minimally invasive cataract surgery to eliminate pathological tissues and protect basilar membrane and regeneration microenvironment beneficial to cell growth. The first successful regeneration of transparent lens was achieved in New Zealand rabbits and macaques.

Liu mentioned that in clinical research, 12 pediatric patients with congenital cataract under 2 years old received this new surgery and then regenerated functional lens. The clinical research has proved the safety and effectiveness of this new surgery in the treatment of congenital cataract. What’s more, this research provides a brand new strategy for cataract therapy and creates a new direction for tissue regeneration and clinical application of stem cells.

Liu pointed out that in the near future, with efforts of scientists, human could regenerate a healthy tissue or organ by using their own stem cells after the surgical excision of pathological one.


Professor Yizhi Liu answers questions at the press conference

Later, Associate Professor Haotian Lin and Professor Hong Ouyang, key young members of the research team, shared their feelings of participating in the research. Associate Professor Haotian Lin firstly offered his gratitude to his teacher, Professor Yizhi Liu, and pointed out that Professor Liu’s scientific spirit of being brave and determined in innovation was always inspiring the team. He also hoped that they could bring more good news to patients through constant efforts. Professor Hong Ouyang said that it was lucky and meaningful to carry out medical research as a member of Professor Liu’s team and that she would continue fighting for the progress of medical science.


Associate Professor Haotian Lin shares his feelings of participating in this research


Professor Hong Ouyang shares her feelings of participating in this research


Key members of Professor Liu’s research team

Over 20 news media attended the press conference, including Xinhua News Agency, China News Service, CCTV, People’s Daily, China Science Daily, Health News, Nanfang Daily, Guangzhou Daily, Yangcheng Evening News, Southern Metropolis Daily, Information Times, New Express, Guangdong Science and Technology News, GDTV, TVS, GZTV/GZBN, Radio Guangdong, Guangzhou Radio, Southern Life Radio, 39 Health Network and


Professor Yizhi Liu is interviewed by the reporters after the press conference