The treatment of blindness has gained a new ally of science! A group of Swedish researchers developed corneas made with porcine tissue collagen and the test results were amazing!
In two years, the experiment, conducted by Linköping University, was carried out on 20 people with tissue problems (14 of them blind). All of the group showed improvement, including vision restoration.
Although more complex clinical trials are needed to validate the measure, the first test using the pigskin cornea showed the novelty to be safe and effective.
How is it done
In order to make the cornea look more natural and elicit a positive response from the body, the researchers synthesized collagen, the main protein in the human cornea, as a raw material.
“For an abundant but sustainable and costeffective supply of collagen, we use medicalgrade collagen derived from pig skin, a purified byproduct of the food industry that is already used in FDAapproved surgical medical devices such as wound dressings,” the scientists explain in the article .
Another benefit is that unlike donated corneas, which need to be used in less than two weeks, the membranes obtained through this system can be stored for two years, which also facilitates storage and the implantation process.
The researchers even used a much less invasive than usual implantation technique, which requires surgical sutures and can only be performed in large hospitals.
“A less invasive method can be used in more hospitals and help more people. With our method, the surgeon does not have to remove the patient’s own tissue,” explains Neil Lagali, a professor in the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at Linköping University and one of the authors of the experiment, in a statement.
“Instead, a small incision is made through which the implant is inserted into the existing cornea,” he concludes.
Patients who underwent the procedure were followed up for two years. The results, the researchers point out, are similar to those of a human cornea transplant.
The study also observed an improvement in visual acuity: the tissue healed quickly and, according to the authors, it only took eight weeks of immunosuppressive eye drops to prevent implant rejection.
Of the 14 participants who were completely blind before the experiment, all partially or fully regained their sight after the transplant.
Safety and efficacy are “at the heart of the work,” says Mehrdad Rafat, CEO of LinkoCare Life Sciences AB, the company that makes the bioengineered corneas used in the study, in the statement.
“We have made significant efforts to ensure that our invention is widely available and accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy. Therefore, this technology can be used in all parts of the world,” defends Mehrdad.
Difficulty finding corneas for transplantation
The authors emphasize that it is important to find an alternative to combat keratoconus, a disease that is the cause of most cases that require transplantation.
Experts estimate that 12.7 million people in the world are waiting for a cornea, and these membranes are in short supply: there is one for every 70 needed.
The study in question was conducted specifically in countries where human corneal donation is less common due to limited infrastructure. There are often obstacles to the procedure, collection and storage in tissue banks.
Corneal blindness also has a socioeconomic aspect: the incidence is around one million new cases per year, but it is mostly concentrated in low and middleincome countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, explain the researchers responsible for the study.
These are places where it is also more difficult to obtain a donated human cornea due to the infinite “economic, cultural, technological, political and ethical barriers”.
Porcine corneas, while showing great promise, need further testing before they can be commercialized.
“The results show that it is possible to develop a biomaterial that meets all the criteria for use as a human implant that can be massproduced and stored for up to two years, thus reaching more people with vision problems. This helps us overcome the lack of donated corneal tissue and access to other treatments for eye diseases,” explained Neil.
With information from Correio Braziliense