A research collaboration from a number of German academic institutions is working on developing two different artificial corneas that may solve the persistent issue of a lack of donor corneas for patients that need them.
One of the devices, called ArtCornea, should actually be useful for people that aren’t viable candidates to accept a donor one. It was designed to promote the growth of cells around the perimeter of the artificial cornea, providing a safe, biocompatible seal to the eye that can last a lifetime. The second, named ACTO-TexKpro, is being looked into as a potential initial treatment for damaged corneas due to inflammation, or accident such as a burn or scratch. It works thanks to a material that aids the person’s corneal tissue to bind to the implant. The teams successfully tested the corneas in living rabbits whose eyes healed within six months and that seem to have adjusted well to their new prostheses.
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ArtCornea® is based on a polymer with high water-absorbent properties. [Dr. Joachim Storsberg, project manager,] and his team have added a new surface coating to ensure anchorage in host tissue and functionality of the optic. The haptic edge was chemically altered to encourage local cell growth. These cells graft to the surrounding human tissue, which is essential for anchorage of the device in the host tissue. The researchers aimed to enlarge the optical surface area of the implant in order to improve light penetration beyond what had previously been possible – a tall order. “Once ArtCornea® is in place, it is hardly visible, except perhaps for a few stitches. It’s also easy to implant and doesn’t provoke any immune response,” says Storsberg, highlighting the merits of this new development.
The specialists have also managed to make a chemically and biologically inert base material biologically compatible for the second artificial cornea, ACTO-TexKpro. Dr. Storsberg achieved this by selectively altering the base material, polyvinylidene difluoride, by coating the fluoride synthetic tissue with a reactive molecule. This allows the patient’s cornea to bond together naturally with the edge of the implant, while the implant’s inner optics, made of silicon, remain free of cells and clear. The ACTO-TexKpro is particularly suitable as a preliminary treatment, for instance if the cornea has been destroyed as a consequence of chronic inflammation, a serious accident, corrosion or burns.
Fraunhofer press release: Artificial cornea gives the gift of vision
(hat tip: The Engineer)