I have written before on the age of merging electronics and man (Bionics). It would seem that science is forever creeping closer to that elusive dream of ‘growing’ human parts. Scientist reported in an article in Sci Transl Med 25 August 2010: Vol. 2, Issue 46, p. 46, on the possibility of implanting biosynthetic corneas.
Corneas from human donors are used to replace damaged tissue and treat corneal blindness, but there is a severe worldwide shortage of donor corneas. We conducted a phase 1 clinical study in which biosynthetic mimics of corneal extracellular matrix were implanted to replace the pathologic anterior cornea of 10 patients who had significant vision loss, with the aim of facilitating endogenous tissue regeneration without the use of human donor tissue.
The biosynthetic implants remained stably integrated and avascular for 24 months after surgery, without the need for long-term use of the steroid immunosuppression that is required for traditional allotransplantation. Corneal re-epithelialization occurred in all patients, although a delay in epithelial closure as a result of the overlying retaining sutures led to early, localized implant thinning and fibrosis in some patients.
The tear film was restored, and stromal cells were recruited into the implant in all patients. Nerve regeneration was also observed and touch sensitivity was restored, both to an equal or to a greater degree than is seen with human donor tissue. Vision at 24 months improved from preoperative values in six patients.
With further optimization, biosynthetic corneal implants could offer a safe and effective alternative to the implantation of human tissue to help address the current donor cornea shortage.
For all out patients out there desperately waiting for donor corneas this might be a sight saver and I’m sure we will here a lot more about in the future.