Scientists create eye layer of pigskin and restore vision for 14 people

A group of scientists created a pigskin implant that was able to restore sight to 14 blind people. The new technique is considered less invasive and does not require stitches or very specialized conditions and equipment to be applied.

“This helps us get around the problem of scarcity of donated corneal tissue and access to other treatments for eye diseases,” said University of Linköping ophthalmology researcher Neil Lagali.

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The cornea of ​​our eye is made up of different types of collagen. So the researchers purified the collagen from the pigskin to create a new layer of cornea. They used chemical and photochemical methods to strengthen the material, making it more stable and resulting in a hydrogel. The product is called double cross-linked bioengineered porcine construct (BPCDX).

Scientists create eye layer of pigskin and restore vision for 14 people. image: shutterstock

Because the material used to create the implant is a by-product of the food industry, and thanks to specially developed packaging and sterilization processes, the final product can be stored for up to two years – an advantage over donated human corneas, which must be used indoors. of two weeks.

According to Science Alert, which released the article with the results of the clinical trial, about 12.7 million people suffer vision loss due to problems with their corneas, and only 1 in 70 manages to receive a cornea transplant – the only way to restore vision. Because the means to provide these transplants are expensive and donated corneas are in short supply, most people in the world do not have access to effective treatments.

“We have made significant efforts to ensure that our invention is widely available and accessible to everyone and not just the wealthy. That’s why this technology can be used in all parts of the world,” added Linköping University biomedical engineer Mehrdad Rafat.

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How is the pigskin implant placed?

The collagen structure of our eyes can shrink over time, causing it to bulge out and distort our vision in a condition called keratoconus. While the cause of this thinning is not known, factors such as genetics, rubbing your eyes vigorously, having hay fever, asthma, Down syndrome, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can all increase your chances of developing the condition.

Thus, the BPCDX is placed in a way that compresses the corneal buckling and provides the lost thickness, which results in restoration of vision. Surgery requires only a 2 millimeter incision and clinical trial results showed no scar formation or adverse reaction, and no intensive therapy or additional surgery was required; just an eight-week course of immunosuppressive eye drops and a bandage.

A woman's iris being scanned
Scientists create eye layer of pigskin and restore vision for 14 people. Image: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

“No previous study, to our knowledge, has achieved full corneal transparency in vivo with sufficient corneal thickening and flattening, or with significant gains in visual acuity, as reported here,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

According to the team, an even larger clinical trial is being planned in order to bolster the results and assign data that will facilitate the procedure to receive the necessary regulatory approvals. The article was published freely in Nature Biotechnology.

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