Thursday, October 28, 2010

Experimental Synthetic Cornea May Provide Alternative To Cadaver Corneas.

By Fiona MacRae from the UK Daily Mail

Button-shaped artificial corneas have restored the sight in men and women in danger of going blind.
The man-made corneas were just as good at improving eyesight as those usually obtained from donors.
In time, the transparent implants could help ease the dire shortage of donated corneas.
Around 3,000 transplants are carried out in the UK each year but hundreds more could have benefited from the surgery.
Worldwide, 1.5million people go blind each year because they cannot have corneal transplants.
Damage to the cornea, the collagen-based transparent outermost layer of the eye, is one of the most common causes of blindness. It affects ten million people around the world and can be caused by genetics, surgery, burns, infection or chemotherapy.
Previous attempts to develop synthetic implants have had limited success. To create an implant that is as close as the real thing as possible, the North American and Swedish researchers grew a synthetic form of human collagen in the lab and moulded it into wafer-thin button-like shapes.
Ten men and women with corneal disease had the damaged tissue scraped away from the surface of the eye and replaced with a man-made cornea in a half-hour operation.
Over time, the patients were able to blink and cry and the nerves severed by the surgery mended.
Fitted with contact lenses, the patients were able to see as well as people who had conventional corneal transplants, the journal Science Translational Medicine reports. Two years after the op, the lab- grown corneas were still working well.
Using ' biosynthetic' corneas removes the risks of disease and rejection associated with corneas taken from donors after death.
Dr May Griffith, of the University of Ottawa in Canada and Linkoping University in southern Sweden, said: 'This study is important because it is the first to show that an artificially fabricated cornea can integrate within the human eye and stimulate regeneration.
' With further research, this approach could help restore sight to millions of people who are waiting for a donated cornea for transplantation.
The journal reported: ' The see-through nature of the cornea is easily destroyed by trauma or infection but replacement human corneas can be inserted and reliably restore vision.
'The problem is that the shortage of donated corneas leaves millions of people likely to go blind. An alternative source of corneas could make a big difference.
'These biosynthetic corneas may soon allow patients who need transplants but do not have donors to regain normal sight.'
Barbara McLaughlan, of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: 'This is potentially an exciting new development for patients with corneal blindness where currently transplant from a human donor is the only treatment opt ion available.
'The first results of this small scale trial in humans seem very encouraging, however mor e research is needed to determine if this could work for all types of corneal blindness and become a widely available treatment.
'RNIB is committed to reducing the number of people who lose their sight unnecessarily, and will follow developments in the hope that the potential of biosynthetic corneas to save sight can be realised.'

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