Twenty people with diseased or damaged corneas had significant improvements in their vision after receiving implants engineered out of protein from pigskin. Three had perfect vision after the procedure.
The 12 patients had an average visual acuity of 20/58 with glasses, but the technology could be a game changer for those with keratoconus and other forms of corneal disease.
A team of researchers used pig tissue to create a corneal implant that didn’t cause any inflammation or scarring. The patients took an eight-week course of immunosuppressive eyedrops to lower the risk of rejection.
The bioengineered implant was quicker than traditional cornea transplants and took about 30 minutes per operation. It might not be useful for patients with scarring or whose corneas had bacterial or viral infections.
“We were surprised with the degree of vision improvement,” said Neil Lagali, a professor of experimental ophthalmology at Linköping University in Sweden who co-authored the study.
Lagali said his team hopes to get regulatory approval for the implants, then use them in countries where human donor tissue is scarce.
Dr. Marian Macsai, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Chicago who wasn’t involved in the study, said the technology could be a game changer for those with keratoconus, which affects roughly 50 to 200 out of every 100,000 people. It might also have applications for other forms of corneal disease.
“The concept that we could have bioengineered corneas would be revolutionary,” Macsai said. “It would potentially eliminate the risk of rejection and potentially make corneas available to patients worldwide.”
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- Pig skin protein gives sight back to 14 blind people – including three with perfect vision CBS News
- Eye implant made from pig protein restored sight in 14 blind people NBC News
- Corneas made from pig skin restore sight in humans: study The Hill
- Pig skin protein restores sight to blind people in study – including three who got perfect vision CBS News
- Cornea made from pig collagen gives people who were blind 20/20 vision New Scientist