Firecrackers, acids, even exploding eggs--these are some of the known hazards that have resulted in burned corneas. If only slightly scratched, the cornea is more than capable of patching itself up
by replacing the damaged cells with new ones from the limbus, a ring that encircles the iris. A burn or a deeper injury wreaks havoc on the limbus, however, forcing the eye to heal itself by taking cells from the white of the eyeball, clouding the cornea in a milky haze.
A treatment developed by Italian scientists could provide lasting relief to these beleaguered victims. For the procedure, which was first performed in 1995, the team harvested the same limbal stem cells that the cornea uses to fix itself and cultivated them on contact lens-like sheets. They then grafted them onto the patients' corneas. The procedure was a striking success. It fully restored the vision of 82 of 117 eyes with scorched corneas (although some needed more than one graft), and partially restored that of 14 others.