Biosynthetic corneas can help regenerate and repair damaged eye tissue and improve vision in humans, according to a new study.
Researchers at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada and Linköping University in Sweden conducted an early phase clinical trial with 10 Swedish patients with advanced keratoconus or central corneal scarring. (Diseases that lead to clouding of the cornea are the most common cause of blindness around the globe.)
Surgeons removed damaged corneal tissue from one eye of each patient and replaced it with a biosynthetic cornea made from synthetically cross-linked recombinant human collagen.
What the researchers found over two years of follow-up is that cells and nerves from the patients' own corneas had grown into the implant, resulting in a "regenerated" -- note the quote marks -- cornea that resembles normal, healthy tissue.
Amazingly, the biosynthetic corneas became sensitive to touch and also began producing normal tears to keep the eye oxygenated.
According to the researchers, patients experienced no reaction or bodily rejection, and thus required no long-term immune system suppression that's de rigueur for an implant from another human.
Six in ten patients experienced vision improvement. After a contact lens fitting, vision was comparable to a conventional corneal transplantation using tissue from another human.
The study is the latest work from researcher May Griffith, who more than 10 years ago developed biosynthetic corneas using laboratory-produced collagen molded into the shape of a cornea. For this work, she collaborated with eye surgeon Per Fagerholm and used collagen from San Francisco, Calif.-based FibroGen.
Their results are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
"With further research, this approach could help restore sight to millions of people who are waiting for a donated human cornea for transplantation," Griffith said in a statement.
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Photo: May Griffith. (OHRI)
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