|An Eye with a Standard Corneal Transplant - interrupted & continuous sutures visible|
One major cause of (semi)permanent blindness is corneal blindness - that means the transparent outer cover of the eye becomes opaque, while the rest of the eye is essentially normal. This was one of the hardest problems to fix, because replacing the opaque cornea meant getting a good quality donor cornea. Even then, sometimes the new cornea does not stay transparent. And getting new good donated corneas is difficult. There have been attempts at artificial corneas ealier, but they are used as a last resort after the donated human corneas are unsuccessful.
A team of Chinese bio-engineers have developed a new bio-engineered artificial cornea which they call "Acornea". It is an acellular corneal stroma product developed mainly by China Regenerative Medicine Int. Ltd. (CRMI) and the Tissue Engineering R & D Center with the Fourth Military Medical University (FMMU).
Apparently, it was accreddited by China Food and Drug Administration in late April 2015. Clinical trials have been going on since 2010 and the transplants show a good success rate similar to human donated corneas.
Beijing Tongren Hospital and Wuhan Xiehe Hospital, among others, have conducted clinical trials of Acornea since 2010, recording a success rate of 94.44 percent, similar to the results seen with donated human corneas.
It is a kind of heterogeneous cornea, is devoid of cells, hybrid proteins, poly-saccharides and other antigens, but retains a natural collagen structure with remarkable bio-compatibility and biological safety, according to Jin Yan, head of the Tissue Engineering R & D Center with FMMU. He says it quickly integrates with the host cornea and does not undergo rejection.
This might be the answer to the shortage of cornea for transplant and the risk of immune rejection of corneas.