The Los Angeles Times reports that, according to a study published in the Aug. 25 issue of Science Translational Medicine, “an experimental synthetic cornea implanted in 10 patients may be a potential alternative to cadaver corneas for curing vision loss due to corneal inflammation and scarring.” The Times explains that “the new artificial corneas use collagen produced in yeast as a scaffolding that allows cells from the recipient to grow into the graft so that it mimics the original tissue.” Notably, “the two-year preliminary test showed that the biosynthetic corneas restored vision as effectively as cadaver corneas, did not require anti-rejection drugs, and allowed normal tears to form.”
The Washington Post /AP (8/26, Neergaard) reports that “in 10 patients with severe vision loss from damage to a corneal layer,” researchers removed “damaged tissue in one eye,” then implanted “the new biosynthetic cornea…. Soon, cells that line a healthy cornea started growing in the collagen.” Remarkably, “two years later, six of the patients had significantly improved vision with glasses and two were no worse.”
“The researchers went one step further and gave contact lenses to the patients,” HealthDay (8/25, Dotinga) reported. “With the lenses in place, they all had improved vision,” a study author said.
WebMD explained the overall importance of the study, noting that “worldwide, more than 10 million people have impaired vision or blindness as a result of corneal damage, but only a small fraction ever receive transplants from cadaver donors.” This “shortage of human donor tissue, coupled with the threat of graft rejection from donor corneal transplants, has driven the search for other ways of treating corneal damage.” And, even though “synthetic corneal replacements made from plastic are available, they have many drawbacks and are considered an option for only a small percentage of people.”
BBC News (8/26, Rutherford) points out that “prosthetic corneas made from synthetic plastic are already used for patients who have previously had unsuccessful donor grafts but these can be difficult to implant and can cause infection, glaucoma and detachment of the retina.”
The UK’s Daily Mail (8/26), the UK’s Telegraph (8/26), the UK’s Press Association (8/26), and Reuters (8/26, Kelland) also cover the story.
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