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November 12, 1997

Stem Cells Hold Vision for the Future

JAMA. 1997;278(18):1477-1478. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550180025010

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AS AN OPHTHALMOLOGIC surgeon, Edward J. Holland, MD, tries to offer hope to hopeless eyes.

One of his beneficiaries is 77-year-old Donald Smolley. The men met several years ago at the University of Minnesota Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis, where Holland directs the Corneal and External Disease Service. After a burning backsplash of drain-clearing liquid in 1968, Smolley was left legally blind in his right eye and with little vision in the left.

A corneal transplant in Smolley's right eye shortly after the injury failed outright. Some sight returned to his left eye, and Smolley continued working as building superintendent at the Minneapolis public library. But eventually the left eye began to fail. Smolley took early retirement, and he and his wife moved to the small western Minnesota town of Montevideo.

"I couldn't see to go across the street; I couldn't see what was on my plate at dinner," Smolley