What are hydrogel corneas? Pay close attention to this article and find out!
Let’s imagine any patient: Mrs. Fernanda. He is 60 years old and suffers from bullous keratopathy: corneal cysts.
If left untreated, chances are that sooner or later you will lose your eyesight. So, to avoid going to this extreme, she undergoes a corneal transplant.
However, his vision does not improve and a new intervention is needed and, in addition, he will have to wait for another donation.
Currently, as with the fictitious patient, there are thousands of people waiting for a corneal transplant.
Donation of this part of the eye that covers the iris is rare, and something we should also take into account is that the cornea tends to degenerate over time.
Therefore, blindness is often related to this impressive structure that protects the greatest number of nerve endings in our entire body.
Scientists have long been looking for an alternative. A way to dispose of corneas without having to wait for donations and which, in turn, are not rejected by the human body.
The solution? These hydrogel corneas were developed by biomedical doctor Berkay Ozcelik at the University of Melbourne (Australia).
Mrs. Fernanda would then have a compatible cornea. And, moreover, in perfect condition without having to wait for a donation : he would regain his sight.
Then we offer all the data.
Hydrogel corneas, an option of the future for treating various types of blindness
- The cornea is the outer layer of the eye.
- Protects from germs, dust and other external elements.
- Allows the eye to focus. In case the cornea hardens or loses its elasticity, we will no longer distinguish everything around us.
- A healthy cornea is moist and transparent, however, with aging and diseases such as the one mentioned at the beginning, the bullous ceropathy, the tissues and their functionality are affected.
Corneas that give back vision
We know that when talking about organ donation, we think almost immediately of such vital organs as the heart, liver, kidneys…
- However, something that not everyone knows is that corneas can restore sight to people who had lost it. It’s a wonderful thing.
- And so, having an advance in this field results in something without a doubt, exceptional.
- We would no longer have to wait for the death of a person to receive their donation, and have the corneas with which this patient would be treated, which is perhaps the second transplant she has received.
Hydrogel corneas would be compatible for each person because they were created from their stem cells, so we avoid rejections.
Even so…. How is this feat produced?
We will explain to you.
What are hydrogel corneas?
- Corneal endothelial cells are cultured in the laboratory over a hydrogel cap. For this, samples of the patient’s own DNA are taken, avoiding rejection.
- These cells grow over the hydrogel cap until finally, the thin cap can be inserted over the patient’s eye through an almost imperceptible incision.
- The new cells have the ability to restore the activity of pumping oxygen and water to the new cornea to keep it moist and transparent at all times.
- This hydrogel layer is thinner than a human hair (50 microns), and within a few months it degrades by itself so that the cells carry on their function without the original support.
The goal is to make this cornea permanent. That it doesn’t cause rejection and that the immune system doesn’t regard it as a foreign body.
Future Perspectives on Hydrogel Corneas
So far, all laboratory tests have had a remarkable success rate. There are many ways that already speak of an effective cure for many types of blindness.
Even so, its guardian, Berkay Ozcelik, wants to be cautious.
- Within two months, tests on humans will be started and the entire scientific community remains in expectation.
- The cultivation of corneal cells can undoubtedly be the key to hope for thousands of people today who see the world in darkness or through opaque shadows due to this diseased, cystic or aging cornea.
It would be a way to get this essential part of the eye without the need for donors.
We will therefore be depending on the results in human patients, expecting them to be positive.