Revolutionary synthetic cornea delivers excellent results for the blind

In poor countries, especially in Africa, the corneal blindness is a size problem. A simple cut, with a corn leaf, can lead to a lesion on the cornea which, if left untreated, will eventually destroy the sight of an eye. In the world, 12.7 million people are currently affected. Treatments are even more of a scourge, with corneal grafts increasingly difficult to obtain and difficulty in handling implants.

In the scientific journal Nature Biotechnology, researchers conducted a study on 20 patients, with an innovative synthetic cornea that could make a big difference. Of course, many laboratories are looking for an alternative to the traditional corneal transplant, which is both in short supply and who cannot not be kept for more than two weeks. But the solution found here offers particularly interesting results, and undeniable benefits.

The researchers’ solution would be able to allow regain sight only two weeks after the transplant. The implant, meanwhile, could be stored for up to two yearswhich greatly simplifies its distribution throughout the world. “We think it could reach people who have limited access to eye care, because the [nouveaux implants] can be shipped literally anywhere and stored in a refrigerator before use”wrote one of the leaders of the study, the ophthalmologist of the Swedish University of Linköping Neil Lagali.

According to the data published in the review, the experimental implant would not have led to “no adverse events observed” over a 2-year test period.

The composition of this synthetic cornea

In an attempt to find a solution to what appears to be the fourth most common category of blindness in the world, scientists started from pig skin. Specifically, to repair the damaged human cornea, which no longer allows the necessary transparency for the retina to capture light, the synthetic implant used purified and freeze-dried porcine dermal atelocollagen, which has excellent properties.

“In short, the purified collagen is rehydrated and cross-linked with a non-toxic chemical cross-linking agent that is water soluble and washes away from the implant. Its only effect is to bind collagen fibers to make the implant stronger. Then, in a second step, the implant is exposed to UVA light which further photochemically binds the collagen fibers together, resulting in a very robust implant which is a hydrogel containing almost 90% water”explained the scientist in an interview with Technology Networks.

Transplants from human cornea would remain the most effective solution, but as the researchers pointed out, the current quantities of grafts do not allow manage only 1 in 70 cases. “We believe that BPCDX could significantly reduce the demand for donor corneal tissue in the future”added Neil Lagali.

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