Taylor Binns’ transformation from blindness to “as close to 20/20 as can be with corrective lenses” may seem like story book stuff, but more than three years after his limbal stem cell transplant, he continues to write new chapters.…
Taylor Binns’ transformation from blindness to “as close to 20/20 as can be with corrective lenses” may seem like story book stuff, but more than three years after his limbal stem cell transplant, he continues to write new chapters.
“I am working for a consulting firm, but I am also in a process of getting into medical school,” says the 26-year-old. “The hope is that within a year-and-a-half I will be in medical school somewhere.”
He is also back on the road, driving a car. Back playing his beloved sport of rugby. And free of the piercing pain that staggered him for almost four years while he was working on his commerce degree at Queen’s University in Kingston.
“It was excruciating,” says Taylor, who grew up in Orillia, Ontario. “Imagine the worst time you ever had with something in your eye. And there was a constant burning sensation.”
Limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD), a rare condition that occurs when the stem cells in a narrow band of tissue around the cornea break down, produced Taylor’s blindness and eye agony. Common causes are chemical damage or burns, but sometimes the condition is congenital. Contact lenses, which Taylor wore, have also been implicated.
As the video above dramatically shows, it was limbal stem cells harvested from his sister Tori that returned Taylor’s sight and banished his pain. Beyond undergoing the procedure, donating her cells posed no problems for Tori. “She’s doing great,” says Taylor. “She’s living in Vancouver where she does hair and makeup for movies and TV shows.”
Taylor, whose LSCD struck during a summer volunteer work stint in Haiti, can’t say enough about Dr Allan R. Slomovic, who performed his four operations at Toronto Western Hospital, beginning in November of 2010. “I was sent to see many doctors around North America and there is no one I would recommend more than him. Professionally and personally, he’s the best.”
Dr. Slomovic, who has done about eight limbal stem cell transplants in the last two years, says the success rate has been good. “But not everyone’s like Taylor. He was very fortunate: when we removed the scar tissue from his cornea, the underlying cornea itself was healthy.”
Dr. Slomovic credits Dr. Edward Cole and the staff at University Health Network’s Renal Transplant Program for making limbal stem cell transplants such a success. Their experience in arranging living and deceased donor kidney transplants gives them the expertise to ensure the most compatible donor is found and that the recipient is put on the most appropriate immunosuppression regime after receiving the donated cells. “It’s a team effort,” says Dr. Slomovic.
As for Taylor, the world is no longer a dark and painful place. His checkups are down to one every six months. Other than “a little bit” of immunosuppressant drugs, he is no longer on medication.
(For more on stem cells and eye diseases click here.)
Each of us could be a potential organ or tissue donor and save the lives of those in need of a transplant.…
Each of us could be a potential organ or tissue donor and save the lives of those in need of a transplant. For example, stem cells contained in bone marrow could help in treating people with blood disorders.
However, while almost 4,500 Canadians currently are on waiting lists for organ donations, almost one-third will never receive them.
So what will it take to get more potential donors to make the commitment?
“Our current laws are looking antiquated,” he says.
Prof. Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, is studying policy options that could increase the number of donations.
If Canada is falling behind the United States and the European Union, then a “legislative rethinking seems warranted,” he writes.
Prof. Caulfield acknowledges that many approaches to increase donations come with considerable controversy. For example, offering financial incentives for donations can turn the process into a for-profit enterprise, with some people donating their organs only to get a financial award. He cites concerns that poorly a devised incentive system “runs an enormous risk of exploiting the most vulnerable and poorest members of our society.”
But the current “ban everything” approach just isn’t working, he writes.
“We need organ donation legislation that will allow innovative and ethically acceptable strategies to be tested and implemented,” he says. To do that, we need evidence-based answers to questions such as “Will a closely regulated, domestic incentive system necessarily result in exploitation?”
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