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Seen At 11: Woman Says Liposuction Saved Her Eyesight

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- Most people get liposuction for a skinnier figure, but one woman says it stopped her from going blind.

Julia Matsumoto had gone completely blind at the age of 31, due to a rare condition called 'optic neuritis' which caused her vision to slip away.

"It was the size of a pin drop and eventually, eventually complete darkness," Matsumoto said.

As CBS 2's Kristine Johnson reported, a doctor placed Matsumoto on Prednisone which helped restore her eyesight, but also caused severe side effects.

"I gained over 100 pounds within three months," she said.

The stretch marks on Matsumoto's arms were nothing compared to the organ and joint damage going on inside of her body.

"It got to the point where I couldn't walk. I couldn't enjoy my life," she said.

While looking for an alternative to steroids, Matsumoto's doctors learned of an experimental and controversial treatment using stem cells that were harvested through liposuction.

"As a cosmetic surgeon, I've been harvesting fat to throw it out because people want to get rid of it. Now, I tell people who come for liposuction, 'Don't be so quick, your fat is loaded with stem cells,'" Dr. Mark Berman said.

Her first treatment began with liposuction to her stomach. Next, stem cells were separated from the fat and blood. The concentrated healing cells were infused back into Matsumoto's body through an IV.

Less than four days later she could see again.

"It's given me a new life," she said.

Matsumoto repeats the stem cell treatment every two months.

There is debate over whether it was the stem cells or the original steroid therapy that restored Matsumoto's vision.

Stem cell therapies like this one are extremely experimental and not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

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