A recent Swedish study proves artificial corneas may be a promising alternative to donor corneas. The study involved 10 patients with corneal damage and significant vision loss between the ages of 18 and 75. These individuals were the first in the world to be fitted with biosynthetic tissue as opposed to human donor corneas. Two years following the surgery, the patients had not experienced any serious reactions or complications.
Corneal transplants can be necessary in conditions such as kerotoconus (corneal damage where there is gradual thinning and bulging of the cornea). Disease of the cornea is one of the major causes of blindness worldwide and is often due to trauma or infection. In many parts of the world, there is a shortage of corneal donors causing waiting lists for the surgery.
According to Ophthalmologist Clayton Falknor, M.D., “A shortage of corneal donors is not typically an issue in the United States due to the excellent eye bank system. We are normally able to secure a donor cornea as necessary. However, globally this is a serious issue and research into synthetic alternatives is very important.”
Initial results from the Swedish study show that biosynthetic corneal implants could offer a solution to the current donor shortage worldwide. However, as the first study of its kind, far more research and much larger numbers of patients is needed to confirm the safe use of biosynthetic corneas.