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Eye: Biosynthetic cornea developed.
(2010-08-27) Swedish researchers have biosynthetically produced a cornea from artificial collagen tissue. The new implant has already been successfully transplanted to ten patients, six of whom have seen a significant improvement in their eyesight.
The cornea sitting on the surface of the eyeball takes on essential functions in refraction of light and determines, among other things, a person's eyesight. Located directly on the surface, however, the cornea is also particularly susceptible to injuries, infections and other diseases that can damage or tarnish it. If it is damaged, the visual acuity decreases considerably and in some cases there is a total loss of vision. Often, those affected can only be helped by the transplantation of a healthy cornea, and so far the cornea of the deceased has mostly been used. However, donors are lacking to meet existing needs. The process for producing an artificial cornea from collagen offers good reason for hope for many patients who have been waiting for surgery for years.
Around 4,000 corneal transplants are performed in Germany every year, and artificial tissue made of plastic has also been transplanted in the past. The method, which has now been developed by the researchers at the Swedish university in Linköping, takes advantage of the natural properties of the eye and thus leads to better results. They use the natural structure of the cornea, which largely consists of grid-like cross-linked collagen fibers that are covered on both sides (top / bottom) by a cell layer. The surgeon only removed the damaged cornea by surgery and replaced the collagen-containing part with a synthetic counterpart. In the previously treated patients, the eye reacted to this by rebuilding the cell-containing areas around the implant. Two years after the operation, the biosynthetic tissue was fully integrated in the eyes of all participants, functional and even sensitive to touch, emphasizes the study leader Per Fagerholm.
In nine of the ten patients, the severed nerves even grew back into the new tissue and in six of them there was a significant improvement in their eyesight, the researchers continued when they presented their results in the journal "Science Translational Medicine". However, two operations also resulted in worsening of the eyesight, which had to be compensated with contact lenses.
However, the advantages of the procedure are obvious to the Swedish scientists around Per Fagerholm: no risk of transmission of pathogens and no risk of a rejection reaction by the immune system. And from the researchers' point of view, the results could be improved even more if, for example, a surgical glue was used instead of a suture to promote the healing process. In general, however, the results are already quite comparable to those after a corneal transplant, explained Per Fagerholm. The researchers are therefore convinced that they have discovered a real alternative to conventional corneal transplantation. (fp)