Nashville, TN | Amniotic Membrane Contact Lens (AMCL) Story | Wang Vision Institute
Dr. Ming Wang: Hello. I'm Dr. Ming Wang, and I'm here to tell a story. Through the story, I want to ask one of life's greatest questions: are faith and science friends or foes?
Dr. Ming Wang: 16 years ago, we were conducting cornea womb healing research and found that, in contrast to an adult eye, which scars after injury resulting in the loss of sight, a fetus can actually heal without scar. Understanding how a fetus can heal without scar offered the intriguing opportunity to help us figure out how an adult eye can also heal without scar, therefore preserving sight.
Dr. Ming Wang: Here, science and faith clashes with each other. Faith dictates that we should leave the embryo and fetus alone and should not conduct such research. In contrast, science says we should. If we follow our faith and do not conduct such research, then how can we face the patients who are suffering from illnesses for which stem cell and fetal womb healing research may present the only hope for treatment? As an eye doctor, I really want to help my patients restore their sight. But I was also struggling with my moral conscience and faith. How can I take life away from an unborn child?
Dr. Ming Wang: We agonized over this dilemma to the point that we were at our wit's end and I nearly gave up on the whole fetal womb healing research project. There just seemed to be no solution at all. I needed to know that it was going to be a long and arduous journey, that the right solution is often the most difficult.
Dr. Ming Wang: We began looking at this problem from different angles and perspectives and stumbled upon the amniotic sac, a casing that holds the baby before the baby is born and is disposed of after the child is born. We asked ourselves the question, "is it possible the amniotic membrane may in fact contain the ingredient of scarless fetal womb healing process?" When this membrane is transplanted onto an adult eye, they can create a fetus-like environment to encourage the adult eye underneath the membrane to heal without scar, like a fetus. Excited at this possibility, we began a series of experiments. I obtained the amniotic membrane from mothers who, after the birth of their children, donated the amniotic sacs, and I transplanted this amniotic membrane onto injured eyes.
Dr. Ming Wang: We published the first paper in scientific literature that demonstrated laboratory success of reduction of cornea scar with amniotic membrane transplantation and elucidated its molecular mechanism.
Dr. Ming Wang: We invented amniotic membrane contact lens, obtained two US patents, and started product development.
Dr. Ming Wang: Finally, after 16 years, we succeeded.
Speaker 2: A Nashville doctor is introducing new technology he says can do more that help patients see, it can actually heal.
Speaker 2: Dr. Ming Wong says he has developed a procedure to use amniotic membranes to clarify vision and reduce scar tissue.
Dr. Ming Wang: Using amniotic membrane, we create a contact lens. We cover the eye surface, recreate a fetus-like environment to encourage the adult body to heal.
Speaker 3: The cornea, which would not heal for over six months with all other medications, with this it has healed completely.
Speaker 2: Dr. Wang researched the project for 16 years before treating a patient. The amniotic sacs are donated by mothers after they give birth.
Dr. Ming Wang: So the magical thing happened after we removed these membranes two weeks later. Instead of seeing, for injured eyes, instead of seeing a scarred, blind eye, we saw a clear eye, with vision.
Speaker 9: That's pretty amazing.
Speaker 5: Tonight, an amazing story that reads like a medical miracle. Matt Higgins was just four years old when he was diagnosed with Stevens Johnson Syndrome, a severe infection that took away his sight and could've killed him. For the last 13 years, Matt has been legally blind. But yesterday, he defied the odds once again, and health reporter Terri Merryman was there to witness it all. Terry?
Terri Merryman: Dimetria, Matt Higgins has spent 13 years of his life with scarred corneas, able to see only hints of light and image. Dr. Min Wang has spent 15 years of his life researching an unborn child's ability to heal without scarring. Well, yesterday, two people who had been working toward an important goal realized miracles do happen.
Matt Higgins: A person who has influenced my life in my late teen years…
Terri Merryman: Matt Higgins and Dr. Ming Wang have waited six years for this moment.
Dr. Ming Wang: I think this is the most amazing thing, that all the research and the work eventually, you'll find, can really make a big difference in patients' lives.
Dr. Ming Wang: You know, I've never seen his cornea this clear.
Terri Merryman: Matt was too young for reconstructive surgery on his scarred corneas when he first came to see Dr. Wang. But last week, the time was right for the final step: helping Matt's eyes heal themselves.
Terri Merryman: Dr. Wang performed corneal stem cell transplants using tissue from an adult donor and an amniotic membrane transplant donated from a newborn.
Dr. Ming Wang: And I call this type of technique "tapping from the youth". You take advantage of the youth for healing ability and use piece of tissue, in this case amniotic membrane, which is always discarded after caesarian section, then transplant back to adult eye and heal the eye.
Terri Merryman: An unborn child has scarless fetal healing ability. This membrane converts the same healing ability to Matt's eyes.
Dr. Ming Wang: Between science, research, and our faith and moral principles, there are opportunities like this you can satisfy both.
Terri Merryman: Now, Matt must learn to see again, learning to feel light on his eyes. He's making great progress.
Speaker 8: People wonder if miracles ever happen and they have, they do. For so long, he's been beside me, afraid to branch out on his own. Now that he can see, he'll probably fly the coop.
Terri Merryman: Well, maybe he's not ready for flying the coop. But Matt does want to get his learner's permit to drive as soon as the doctor says it's okay.
Speaker 5: Amazing story. Dr. Wang has used the same technology to develop an amniotic membrane contact lens. It can be transplanted shortly after cornea trauma to prevent scarring.
Dr. Ming Wang: Today, eye doctors throughout the world use the amniotic membrane contact lens to cover injured eyes to reduce scar and restore sight. Countless numbers of patients have benefited from this new technology and had their sight restored. Amniotic membrane contact lens is a powerful example that shows that faith and science can indeed work together. Through the study and use of amniotic membrane, we gained a better understanding of this scarless fetal womb healing process, which benefited adult eyes and helped restore sight. All this, without touching any part of the unborn child.
Dr. Ming Wang: My name's Ming Wang and I do believe that not only faith and science are compatible and can work together, but also that it is through united them rather than splitting them can we actually find a new, unexpected, and more powerful solution to the problems in our lives.