Thursday, September 16, 2010

News - Success With Synthetic Corneas

For the first time, doctors in Canada and Sweden have used artificial corneas to restore vision to the blind. In an initial study in Sweden, ten patients were given artificial cornea implants in one eye. After two years, doctors found that the synthetic cornea implants worked at least as well as natural transplants from human donors.

This is significant for a couple of reasons. In the United States, there are more than 42,000 cornea transplants performed every year. While there is little problem getting corneas here in the US, that is not the case in other countries around the world where there are fewer donors. The United States actually exports around 10,000 corneas every year.

In addition, artificial corneas may even prove to be better than natural donated tissue in the long run. Our corneas are made up of multiple layers of collagen. Collagen is a protein that occurs naturally in our bodies, and is often referred to as the glue that holds our bodies together. Collagen is what holds our bones, tendons, muscle, and ligaments together. These new artificial corneas are made from a synthetic collagen which very closely matches the protein in our bodies. In the ten test subjects, doctors found that the cells and nerves of the eye began to grow into the cornea implants, until they very closely resembled a natural, healthy cornea, eventually becoming sensitive to touch, and allowing natural tears to form. For this reason, the risk of infection or rejection is greatly reduced, and no anti-rejection drugs are required.

With the success of this first test, the doctors involved in the study are planning a second test phase involving 25 patients. It may be some time yet before this new technology is available to everyone, but this is exciting news for patients with corneal scarring or keratoconus. No more waiting for a donated cornea, and no more worries of the transplant being rejected. I have experienced both of these worries first-hand, and I can tell you that this is a huge leap forward.

Special thanks to Uncle Butch for alerting me to this story.

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