From mechanical hearts and brain-controlled prostheses to 3D-printed organs, advances in biotechnology are rapidly transforming how we approach healthcare — and now, doctors have managed to successfully carry out artificial cornea transplants, too, according to Opthalmology Times.
The world's first successful artificial cornea transplant was carried out on January 11 at the Beilinson Hospital in Israel, also known as the Rabin Medical Center.
The procedure was conducted by Israeli startup CorNeat, which won approval for clinical trials in July last year, according to an Israel Hayom report.
After losing his sight 10 years earlier due to a deformed cornea, a 78-year-old patient was the first to regain his eyesight on being fitted with the implant. Dubbed KPro, the artificial implant can replace a deformed or opaque cornea. It's designed with a non-degradable synthetic nano-tissue that's placed under the conjunctiva, a thin membrane that covers the surface of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball, the sclera.
Dr. Gilad Litvin, chief medical officer of CorNeat Vision and inventor of the device, told Israel Hayom that the procedure was "relatively simple" and the operation took under an hour.
CorNeat chose 10 trial patients who suffered from corneal blindness and who had either experienced failed corneal transplants in the past or weren't suitable candidates for transplants.
"The surgical procedure was simple and the result exceeded all our expectations," said Professor Irit Bahar, Beilinson Hospital's head of ophthalmology. "The moment we took off the bandages was emotional and significant. Moments like these are the fulfillment of our calling as doctors. We are proud of being at the forefront of this exciting and meaningful project which will undoubtedly impact the lives of millions."
Litvin said he was thrilled with the results, saying it "surreal" that the team had made a world-first achievement and that it was making waves in the field of organ transplantation.
"After years of hard work, seeing a colleague implant the CorNeat KPro with ease and witnessing a fellow human being regain his sight the following day was electrifying and emotionally moving," said Dr. Litvin. "There were a lot of tears in the room."
Corneal transplants are common procedures to restore eyesight but they can only be done with a donor cornea, for which demand is high — while pig corneas are a viable solution, the team's success with this procedure could prove life-changing for many.
Bahar said he hoped the procedure would allow millions of blind patients around the world to regain their sight.
BDST: 1210 HRS, JAN 25, 2021