Eye Health News

Artificial corneal transplants restore vision

corneaBy inserting an artificial collagen implant into the eye, scientists have developed a way for
By inserting an artificial collagen implant into the eye, scientists have developed a way for a person's own natural corneal cells to regrow and thus restore vision. This is a revolutionary step toward developing an alternative to standard cornea transplants which aren't widely available in some parts of the world due to a shortage of donated cadaver corneas. The cornea is the clear film-like covering of the surface of the eye. The cornea helps the eye focus light and is delicate and easily harmed by infection or injury. Annually, around 42,000 people in the United States receive corneal transplants. The United States has an adequate supply of donated corneas but transplants do bring a risk of rejection and require steroid eyedrops, sometimes indefinitely. Scientists took human collagen grown in yeast and then molded it into a contact lens-looking shape for a cornea. This bioartificial cornea was then placed in 10 patients with severe vision loss from damage to a corneal layer. The damaged tissue was removed in one eye and replaced with the bioartificial cornea. Scientists then noted that cells that normally line a healthy cornea began to grow in the collagen, tear production resumed and corneal nerves began to grow. Unlike a standard corneal transplant, no immune-suppressing medication was needed and there was no rejection of the implant. While researchers are excited about this new technology, larger studies are needed and the therapy can hopefully be extended to include a wider range of vision loss. Full-thickness damage to the endothelial cells of the cornea are harder to treat than upper-layer corneal problems.* Andrea Schumann Staff Writer

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