Israeli company CorNeat Vision has developed an artificial cornea that allows a 78-year-old man who has been blind for ten years to fully restore his vision. The advantage of this implant, dubbed KPro, is that it can be inserted directly into the wall of the eye without the need for donor human tissue. The patient was able to recognize family members and read the text the day after surgery.
This synthetic cornea is one of a kind: CorNeat emphasizes that the biomimetic materials used for its production are capable of stimulating cell proliferation, so it integrates perfectly into human tissue. The man, who was the first patient to develop this cornea, was operated on January 3 at Rabin Medical Center by Professor Irit Bahar, head of the Department of Ophthalmology. He had previously undergone four human cornea transplants to try to restore vision, but they all failed.
The KPro synthetic cornea has been developed to replace deformed or clouded corneas. According to its developers, in addition to the fact that it does not depend on the tissue of a possible donor, its installation is much easier to implement than human corneal transplantation. It is expected that nearly twenty patients will also be equipped with this implant.
According to the World Health Organization, 36 million people are blind, and 2 million new cases are registered each year. Cataracts that have not been operated on are the cause of most cases; uncorrected refractive errors and glaucoma are other common causes of vision loss.
The cornea is the transparent layer that covers and protects the eyes. However, it can degenerate or become damaged for a number of reasons, including conditions such as keratopathy (which includes corneal edema that looks like a blister), keratoconus (which results in loss of corneal sphericity), or trauma. When the visual impairment caused by illness becomes too severe, corneal transplantation can restore visual function.
There are already several models of artificial cornea for patients with corneal degeneration. But these surgeries are usually complex and are used only as a last resort when standard transplantation is not possible or does not work. In comparison, according to its developers, KPro corneal implantation is a relatively simple procedure, taking less than an hour, requiring minimal cutting and suturing, as can be seen in this video suggested by CorNeat Vision:
The first step is to cut out the sclera of the eye (the membrane that forms the white part of the eye). The surgeon then removes all of the corneal epithelium to prevent the formation of a retroprosthetic membrane. A marker is then used to quickly indicate the various cut and seam points. Once the defective cornea is removed, the surgeon installs the implant using the previously marked guide and then reinserts the sclera before attaching it to the device. The process itself minimizes the time the eye stays in the “open air” to less than a minute, which significantly reduces the risk.
CorNeat Vision also announced that ten other patients have been approved for further implantation trials in Israel. The company also plans to conduct two trials this month in Canada, with six more in the process of approval in France, the United States and the Netherlands. A larger study is expected this year with 60-70 patients in China, where only a few thousand corneal transplants are performed each year, while more than 5 million patients await the procedure.