Lab-grown Corneas Used in Transplants

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Aug. 25 (UPI) — Artificial corneas grown in a laboratory have significantly improved the sight of people suffering from major vision loss, Swedish researchers say.

Produced in a laboratory entirely from synthetic collagen, the implants offer the possibility of a replacement for human donor tissues, the BBC reported Wednesday.

The artificial corneas work by initiating regeneration of the nerves and cells in the eye, the first time vision has been restored in this way, researchers say.

Damage to the cornea is the second-largest cause of blindness worldwide after cataracts, affecting nearly 10 million people.

In many countries corneal damage and disease is treated by implanting human donor corneas, but there is a worldwide shortage, medical experts say.

Ten patients in Sweden had their damaged corneas replaced with “biosynthetic” implants made from a synthetic version of human collagen designed to mimic the cornea as closely as possible.

The patients all recovered their sight as well as if they had received human donor corneas, and in some respects improvement in the eye was better than compared with a human graft.

Dr. May Griffith, professor of regenerative medicine at Linkopings University in Sweden and one of the authors of the two-year study, said she was surprised by the success of the implants.

“Our goal was actually just to test the safety of these corneas in humans,” she said, “so the improvement in vision was a real bonus for us.”

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