The cornea of the eye is that part of the eye in which light is refracted, after which the changed rays reach the visual analyzers. It is on how clean and healthy the cornea of the eye will be that the quality of a person’s vision largely depends. The health of the cornea depends on genetics, and also on how much the person will maintain the right lifestyle and take good care of his eyes. But if a person nevertheless has a genetic predisposition to eye diseases, in case of improper living conditions, some ophthalmic diseases may occur, leading to irreversible changes in the cornea, which can even cause blindness in the future. Here, unfortunately, not a single vision correction will help and the only way out is an artificial cornea, which will replace a person with his own.
Who is indicated for artificial corneal transplantation
Today, between 8 and 10 million people worldwide need donor corneas. Corneal transplantation may be indicated for the following reasons:
– severe injuries of the cornea;
– chemical and thermal burns of the cornea;
– damage to the cornea with viral and bacterial infections;
– complications after surgery on the eyes;
– epithelial-endothelial dystrophy of the cornea;
Initially, doctors used donor corneas for transplantation. Such an operation can be performed within a few hours after the death of the donor. If delayed with the process of removing the cornea, it may become unsuitable for transplantation, since over time changes occur on it. But such operations, unfortunately, are not always successful, because due to immune incompatibility in the patient, donor cornea can be rejected. Such transplantology methods are used in few countries, mainly in the USA and Singapore; the chance of success is 85-90%.
In the late 70s, Canadian, American and Swedish scientists began to develop an artificial eye cornea, and only after thirty years of painstaking work, scientists managed to create polymer analogues of the cornea very close in their properties to natural ones.
The first clinical trials of a new artificial cornea were conducted in Sweden. For ten patients, artificial collagen corneas were developed and then successfully implanted. After surgery, patients were observed by ophthalmologists for two years. The results of clinical trials were successful. According to the Swedish scientist May Griffiths, an implanted collagen cornea overgrows with its own cells and nerve endings in the patient’s eye, so the process of restoring vision proceeds naturally. Thus, scientists were able to return the vision to all ten patients without compromising their health, since there was no rejection of the artificial cornea.
The artificial cornea of the eye (keratoprosthesis), unlike the donor cornea, does not contain dangerous viruses and bacteria. There is not a high risk of infection during the transplantation itself, which is eliminated by taking antibiotics in the postoperative phase.
Insufficient clinical trials have been conducted to disseminate such operations around the world, however, scientists hope that keratoprostheses will soon help restore vision to millions of people in the world.