Melbourne scientists say they have actually successfully grown and implanted cornea cells to treat loss of sight.
The cells were grown on a layer of synthetic film and transplanted into the eyes of animals, bring back vision. Researchers are now getting ready for human trials.
The technique, established by scientists at Melbourne University and the Centre for Eye Research study, might replace transplants of donated cornea. The cornea is a transparent layer at the front of the eye. A layer of cells on its inner surface area keeps it wet by “pumping” water out of it.
Trauma, illness and aging can minimize the variety of these cells leading to wear and tear and blindness. Research study scientist Berkay Ozcelik said it was a crucial advancement.
“We believe that our new treatment is better than a donated cornea and we eventually hope to use the patient’s own cells, reducing the risk of rejection,” he said. Victor Fortemann has had two failed cornea transplants and now needs another.
“I think that would be tremendous because the need for steroids to keep the graft in place would fall away,” he said.
Advancement could be used for other health issues
Mr Ozcelik stated the artificial movie looks a bit like cling wrap, and can be implanted on the inner surface of a patient’s cornea through a really small cut.
The hydrogel movie is thinner than a human hair and allows the flow of water in between the cornea and the interior of the eye.
It then breaks down and vanishes within two months.
“These materials show minimal inflammation, cause no adverse issues at all and can cause regeneration of tissue, hence allowing us to use this for various applications,” Mr Ozcelik said.
“We’ve actually developed a new class of material using novel chemical methods. The film could be used for other tissue engineering such as skin.”
“This way of using patients own cells, amplifying them outside the body and replacing them is a very exciting new area,” he said.
The Centre for Eye research is now looking for equity capital to set up the human trials. If effective the film could be used to produce cornea cells for patients in China and Japan where donated tissue is not favoured.