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An artificial cornea to restore sight

A 78-year-old blind man has regained his sight after receiving the world's first synthetic cornea implant.
An artificial cornea to restore sight
Photo by Vanessa Bumbeers on Unsplash
An artificial cornea to restore sight

The operation was carried out by Professor Irit Bahar, director of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Rabin Medical Center in Israel. According to her, the patient was able to recognise his family members and read text the very next day. A very fast recovery time.

The implant, called KPro, was developed by CorNeat Vision, an Israeli start-up specialising in biometric implants. Composed of a PMMA lens and a 100% artificial, porous and non-degradable skirt, it is the first synthetic product integrated directly onto the surface of the eye to replace scarred or irregular corneas, without needing donor tissue.

The cornea is the transparent layer that covers and protects the eye. However, the cornea can degenerate or become damaged due to certain diseases caused by old age or trauma.

Until now, corneal transplants have been used to treat people with these visual impairments. According to the French Biomedical Agency, the cornea is the tissue most commonly removed from deceased donors and is one of the most frequently carried out organ transplants in the world. However, there are too few corneal donations worldwide for the number of people suffering from progressive blindness; only one cornea is available for every 70 needed.

There are also some artificial cornea models for patients with corneal degeneration. However, these surgeries are usually very complex and are only used as a last resort, when a standard transplant is not possible or does not work.

A new generation of artificial cornea: a 100% synthetic and non-degradable material

The artificial cornea designed and manufactured by CorNeat Vision does not require donor tissue. It is made of biomimetic materials that stimulate cell proliferation so that the synthetic part integrates perfectly with the patient's physiology. The surgical procedure is relatively simple and quick - 45 minutes - and involves minimal surgery and stitches. “The result has exceeded all our expectations,” said Professor Irit Bahar, who called the technology “essential to reversing the trend of blindness around the world”.

An operation that could improve millions of lives

Following the success of this inaugural operation, the company said that 10 other patients have already been scheduled for similar operations in Israel, before the procedure is tested in the United States, Canada, France and the Netherlands in the coming months.

According to the World Health Organisation, 36 million people are affected by blindness, with 2 million new cases reported each year. Untreated cataracts account for most cases; uncorrected refractive errors and glaucoma are other common causes of vision loss. Corneal opacity is the third leading cause of blindness worldwide.

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