Highlights

All participants’ vision returned within two years of the transplant.
The 3 Indian patients who were unable to see before the operation, their vision became completely fine.
The researchers claimed that there were no complications in the surgery.

New Delhi. Researchers have succeeded in restoring vision in 20 patients from India and Iran with a corneal ‘implant’ made from pig skin. Most of these patients were experiencing blindness before the surgery involving the transplantation of the cornea. The research was published on Thursday in the journal Nature Biotechnology. This has led to a new ray of hope for patients suffering from blindness or complaints of low light due to a defect in the cornea (the hard white part that protects the pupil of the eye). A team of international researchers has transplanted a corneal ‘implant’ made from pig skin into patients in place of corneas obtained from a human donor. Researchers from AIIMS Delhi were also included in this team.

“The results show that it is possible to develop a biological material that meets all the criteria for human transplantation, which can be mass-produced,” said Professor Neil Lagali from the University of Link√∂ping, Sweden, who was part of the research team. and which can be saved for two years. In this way it is possible to help more people suffering from vision related problems. According to Lagali, this research will prove helpful in tackling the problem of lack of corneal tissue for transplantation and in developing treatments for other eye diseases.

According to researchers, an estimated 12.7 million people worldwide suffer from blindness due to damage or destruction of the cornea. Most patients seeking corneal transplants live in low- or middle-income countries, where access to treatment is limited. The protein collagen is mainly found in the cornea. To create a substitute for the human cornea, the researchers used collagen molecules derived from pig skin. These molecules were subjected to a process of high purification under extremely difficult conditions.

According to the researchers, pig skin is a by-product of the food industry, making it less expensive and easier to obtain. He said that while the cornea obtained from a human donor should be used within two weeks, the cornea prepared from pig skin can be saved for two years. In a pilot trial, a corneal ‘implant’ made from pig skin was implanted in 20 patients who were blind or on the verge of loss of vision due to keratoconus. Of these, 12 patients were from Iran and eight from India.

The researchers claimed that the surgery did not reveal any complications, the body began to accept foreign tissue more quickly, and that the risk of rejection of the implant was averted by inserting an immune-suppressing eye-drop for just eight weeks. According to the researchers, the vision of all the participants returned within two years of the transplant. Not only this, three Indian patients who were unable to see before the operation, their vision was completely fine (20/20).

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