Bioengineered implants from pig skin provide a novel technique to assist patients with injured corneas. The implants were proven to restore people’s Eyesight for up to two years, including in individuals who were legally blind, according to results from a limited clinical trial released this month. The method may eventually provide patients with these illnesses with a mass-produced substitute for donated human corneas if it continues to show potential.
The cornea is the eye’s clear outside layer. It helps us see by concentrating the light that travels through it and shielding the rest of the eye. Mild abrasions to the cornea can be readily healed, but more severe wounds and some disorders can permanently damage the cornea, causing vision loss. According to the World Health Organization, one of the main causes of blindness, corneal damage, is considered to cause vision-related issues in about 4 million individuals.
The team’s study, just published in Nature Biotechnology, involved 20 patients from Iran and India who had advanced keratoconus, a disease where the cornea gradually thins down. After the procedure, the Eyesight of 19 out of 20 patients significantly improved, and all 14 patients who had previously met the criteria for being legally blind no longer did. The individuals needing more corrective care were now again able to tolerate contact lenses. And two years later, these improvements remained constant with no adverse effects noted.