For the 1.5 million who go blind each year waiting for new corneas, new hope: For the first time, lab-grown corneas have been successfully transplanted—and worked, stimulating regeneration and allowing patients to blink and cry, and, in some cases, fully restoring their sight. Currently, human donors are the only source of corneas, which has led to a shortage. Artificial corneas could fill the gap at a fraction of the cost, and could even perform better than transplanted human corneas, which can be rejected or cause infection.
The study, released today, found that corneas grown from human tissue and shaped using a contact lens mold improved vision in six of 10 patients, and were still working two years later, reports the Telegraph. The cornea, a vulnerable lens that protects the eye, can be damaged by genetics, surgery, burns, infection, or chemotherapy.