SANPADA: It’s been four years since that fateful day when Mahape resident Neeraj Baitha, then two years old, started losing vision in his left eye.
Neeraj was playing with lime powder when he rubbed the chemical in his eye.
Within three months, a whitish tissue started growing over his eye, a process doctors call corneal conjunctivalisation, or growth of the conjunctiva over the cornea — the outer clear layer of the eye.
Four years and three surgeries later, Neeraj’s vision was so poor that if a torch was shone in his eye, he could not even identify the direction of the light source.
On December 16 last year, the six- year- old’s parents visited the Advanced Eye Hospital and Institute (AEHI), Sanpada.
There, he underwent a rare stem cell surgery, and is now on the path to recovery.
“Simple limbal epithelial transplantation (SLET) is a type of cornea transplant in which healthy stem cells are taken from the limbus of the cornea. The limbus is the area where the black and white of the eye meet. This area is rich with stem cells, which have the capacity to grow into any type of cell in the body,” said Dr Vandana Jain, who treated Neeraj. However, this process is expensive, and hence Neeraj was treated with an advanced, cheaper technique.
In his case, the extra conjunctiva over his cornea was removed. A layer of amniotic membrane (the sac in which a baby grows in the womb) was glued onto his damaged cornea.
Stem cells were taken from Neeraj’s healthy right eye and spread on this base of amniotic membrane.
“The whitish network that had grown over his eye is now gone. His eye looks as clear as it was before the damage,” said Umesh, Neeraj’s elated father.