The bio-engineered cornea may be the answer for people suffering from loss of vision due to a damaged cornea and in need of a cornea donor for a transplant.
Cornea research findings
AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Science) conducted research on ten patients over two years. Researchers are convinced a newly developed artificial cornea made of bio-engineered collagen will give a new lease of life to over 2 lakh people requiring a corneal transplant. The lack of cornea donors in India is what led to the research in developing artificial corneas. The researchers believe the implantation process is easy and initial results look promising.
The importance of cornea
The cornea is a transparent tissue covering our eyes allowing light to enter and helping us focus. The cornea can get damaged due to certain infections, inflammatory eye diseases, trauma as well as deficiency of vitamin-A. The only way to treat a damaged cornea is by replacing the damaged tissue with a graft from a donor. The lack of cornea donors has resulted in a majority of visually challenged people unable to get corrective surgery.
To bridge the gap between demand and supply, scientists developed a synthetic prosthesis made from transparent thermoplastic to replace the cornea’s refraction function. Though successful, the prosthesis had limited use due to certain drawbacks like difficulty to implant, calcification, infection, and retinal detachment.
Developing an alternative
Scientists began working with collagen retrieved from pigs, cows, and rats, and later bio-engineered collagen, to combat the rejection of the prosthesis by the body. According to studies, the majority of patients who underwent implantation of artificial collagen developed improved vision after just two years.
Adopting the new treatment
AIIMS decided to treat patients who went blind due to improper treatment. Dr. Namrata Sharma, Professor of Ophthalmology at AIIMS, said artificial cornea integrates well with the recipient’s own cells and there have been no cases of rejection so far. She added, ‘eye donation still remains important’.
While it is hoped the new technology will help cornea damaged patients globally, it is also important for people to realize how eye donation can make a big difference to the visually impaired.
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