Breakthrough as scientists cure blindness in 14 people

Breakthrough as scientists cure blindness in 14 people

Blind people have been cured in a breakthrough new treatment.

Scientists used pigskin to create a cornea, the clear outer layer at the front of the eye.

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Blind people’s sight has been restored after an innovative new treatmentCredit: Getty

The implant was given to 20 people who had diseased corneas, 14 of whom were completely blind.

Researchers at Linköping University (LiU), Sweden, said their vision was restored and even three had “perfect 20/20 vision”.

The participants recovered quickly from the operation and experienced no complications during a two-year follow-up.

The cornea is fundamental to sight because it is the first point of entry of light.

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When injured or injured, it becomes cloudy or scarred, causing loss of vision and sensitivity to light.

Damage to the cornea is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, affecting an estimated 12.7 million people.

If treatments don’t work, doctors can remove the damaged part of the cornea and replace it with healthy corneal tissue from a donor.

More than 40,000 corneal transplants are performed in the US and 3,800 in England each year.

However, there is a shortage of corneas donated by the dead.

Corneas are the body part that most people say they don’t want to donate.

One in 10 people on the NHS Organ Donor Register say they do not want to donate their corneas.

The situation is worse for those who live in poor countries, the most affected by corneal damage, meaning that only around one in 70 patients worldwide has one.

Those who do could still be out of luck if the body’s immune system rejects the donor cornea.

But the new transplant made from pigs gives hope to millions of people with vision problems.

Professor Neil Lagali from LiU’s Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, one of the researchers, said: “The results show that it is possible to develop a biomaterial that meets all the criteria for use as human implants, that can be produced in bulk and stored for up to two years and thus reach more people with vision problems.

“This brings us to the problem of the shortage of donated corneal tissue and access to other treatments for eye diseases.”

Pig skin contains collagen, the same material that the human cornea is made of.

The collagen was extracted and molded into a robust film representing a cornea.

Surgeons from Iran and India, two countries where many people suffer from corneal blindness and low vision, conducted the pilot study with the 20 patients.

All had keratoconus, an eye disease in which the cornea thins and becomes irregularly shaped. It is one of the most common reasons for a cornea transplant.

The main aim of the study was to investigate whether the implant was safe to use.

However, the researchers were surprised by what happened with the implant, with participants’ vision improving as much as it would have after a cornea transplant with donated human tissue.

Before the treatment could be used on a large scale, a larger study would be needed,

However, with pig skin an easily accessible by-product of the agricultural industry, it has the potential to be a cheap and easy alternative to what is currently on offer.

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Inventor Mehrdad Rafat, Associate Professor (Senior Professor) at LiU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, said: “We have made significant efforts to ensure that our invention is widely available and affordable to all and not just the rich.

“That’s why this technology can be used in every part of the world.”


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