A patented treatment could restore eyesight for millions of sufferers of corneal disease.
The University of Melbourne-led team of researchers have grown corneal cells on a layer of film that can be implanted in the eye to help the cornea heal itself. They have successfully restored vision in animal trials and are aiming to move to human trials in 2017.
More than 2,000 corneal transplants are conducted in Australia each year. But globally there’s a shortage of donated corneas, and the resulting loss in vision affects about 10 million people worldwide.
“The hydrogel film we have developed allows us to grow a layer of corneal cells in the laboratory,” says Berkay Ozcelik, who developed the film working at The University of Melbourne.
“Then, we can implant that film on the inner surface of a patient’s cornea, within the eye, via a very small incision.”
Once in place, the new cells restore the cornea’s vital water-pumping activity, so that the cornea once more becomes transparent.
“We believe that our new treatment performs better than a donated cornea, and we hope to eventually use the patient’s own cells, reducing the risk of rejection,” Berkay says.
Banner image: Berkay Ozcelik holds up the corneal cell film he developed with colleagues from The University of Melbourne.