Twenty patients have regained their sight thanks to an experimental artificial cornea
Indian and Iranian scientists have just achieved a feat. They were able to restore sight in around 20 patients who had a significant visual impairment. What makes their feat quite special is the fact that they used an experimental synthetic cornea made from pigskin.
In order to observe the results obtained with the use of the experimental implant, the researchers conducted a pilot feasibility study. They implanted the artificial cornea in the eyes of 20 patients, 14 of whom were legally blind. After a period of 24 months in which “no adverse effects were observed” in the patients, the 20 participants were able to regain sight and the ability to wear contact lenses.
The study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
The process followed
In an interview, the first author of the study, Neil Lagalian experimental ophthalmologist at Linköping University in Sweden, described the process of implanting the synthetic cornea.
Lagali and his colleagues have seeded the implants with human corneal epithelial cells after they were placed in the subjects’ eyes. It was there that they discovered that the cells they used started to grow and become transparent in the eyes of the participants. These results were observed approximately two weeks after implantation.
Independent laboratories participated in the study with the aim of testing whether the implants were indeed sterile. These tests also revealed that synthetic corneas made with pig collagen were more stable than human tissue from a storage point of view. Human tissue from donors can be stored for one to two weeks while experimental implants can be stored for a minimum of 2 years.
A whole new method with its advantages
In recent years, many researches have tried to create artificial corneas. However, according to the researchers behind this new study, no one has yet tried the specific implant procedure they developed. Lagali hopes that this new technique will “significantly reduce the demand for corneal tissue from donors in the future”.
Lagali added that the most important thing is that this technique will be able to reach people who do not have access to eye care. The implants can indeed be sent anywhere and kept in a refrigerator before being used.