Cornea made of pig collagen restores excellent vision to the blind

– Dimitri Bozovic / Shutterstock.com

Corneas made of pig collagen enabled blind and visually impaired people to regain sight. During the two years following the operation, no serious complications or adverse side effects were observed.

Promising alternatives to human corneas

More than 12 million people are affected worldwide blindness The cornea, which usually occurs when the eye’s clear, protective outer layer becomes cloudy or discolored as a result of damage or disease. The planting From cornea Currently requires a human donor, only one in 70 people in need receives this care. It turns out that the high cost of such a surgical procedure in many low-income countries complicates access to treatment.

In the context of the work published in the magazine nature biotechnologyMehrdad Raafat and colleagues at Linköping University (Sweden) Flexible and resistant dome Similar to contact lenses, By extracting and purifying collagen from pig skin tissue. After successful clinical trials, the team began testing the artificial corneas on human volunteers.

Twenty people who participated suffered from keratoconus, a condition in which the cornea becomes thin and distorted. 14 of them were officially recognized as blind prior to the operation, while the vision of the other six was described as severely impaired. After the operation , Everyone saw a noticeable improvement in their visionwith a visual acuity of 10/10 observed in three previously blind patients.

Experimental cornea made from pig collagen – © Thor Balkhed / Linköping University

The use of collagen proteins also carries a much lower risk of rejection by the recipient’s immune system. While people who undergo a human corneal transplant usually have to take medications for several years to avoid rejection, the 20 people only used immunosuppressive eye drops for eight weeks.

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Lower total cost than traditional corneal transplant

despite The total cost of the new procedure It remains somewhat ambiguous at this point, Raafat sees it It will be less than traditional corneal transplant, ranging from a few thousand to several tens of thousands of euros depending on the country. His team is currently planning new clinical trials, which will pave the way for a broader use of this approach.

Although these results are promising, Esin Akpek, of Johns Hopkins University, points out that people with keratoconus can often benefit from personal contact lenses and that various alternatives to human corneas have been previously developed without taking off. ” People who cannot be treated with currently available technology will not be treated. ‘ asserts the researcher.

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