New Artificial Corneas Bring Hope to Thousands

Created: 2012-10-14 23:06 EST

New Artificial Corneas Bring Hope to Thousands
Schematic diagram of the human eye. (Cornea labeled at center top.)(Rhcastilhos / en.wikipedia.org)

Various eye ailments—often cornea diseases—cause thousands to lose their eyesight. In most cases, preferred treatment is cornea transplantation, which is not always possible or readily available. 

Lead by Dr Joachim Storsberg, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP) in Potsdam, Germany, have been working on designing artificial corneas. 
 
Dr Storsberg was awarded the Josef-von-Fraunhofer Prize in 2010, for his work on similar developments over the last 7 years. 
 
He says in IAP’s research news, “We are in the process of developing two different types of artificial corneas. One of them can be used as an alternative to a donor cornea in cases where the patient would not tolerate a donor cornea, let alone the issue of donor material shortage.” 
 
Named the ‘ArtCornea’, the designed implant is a water-absorbing polymer coupled with a coating that attaches to the human tissue, by encouraging nearby tissue growth. The new design has an enlarged optical surface area which improves the light penetration in comparison with earlier versions, according to IAP reports.
 
“Once ArtCornea is in place, it is hardly visible, except perhaps for a few stitches. It’s also easy to implant and doesn’t provoke any immune response,” says Storsberg.
 
According to IAP, doctors had carried out initial experiments in the laboratory, and then performed the same surgery on a number of rabbits. 
 
Six months into the healing process, the team found that the rabbits had accepted the implanted corneas, which had securely anchored within their eyes without causing visible irritation. 
 
Further tests suggested that the rabbits had easily adapted to the newly acquired corneas.
 
In Germany alone, around 7,000 patients are now waiting to be treated for various eye ailments that may require transplants. 
 
Dr Storsberg and his team, who are in close cooperation with the IAP’s Aachen Centre of Technology Transfer, are hoping to improve the situation by further developing the artificial corneas.
 
Prof. Dr Norbert Schrage will soon be leading clinical trials at the Cologne-Merheim Eye Clinic.
 
New Artificial Corneas Bring Hope to Thousands