For the first time in history, a man has been given his sight back after being blind for ten years. An Israeli startup has successfully carried out the world's first artificial cornea transplant, restoring the vision of a 78-year-old man.
The implant has been named KPro. The KPro is made of a non-degradable synthetic nano-tissue placed under the conjunctiva. That's the thin membrane that covers the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball (called the sclera) and can replace a deformed or opaque cornea.
With new advanced biotechnology, the world has seen mechanical hearts and brain-controlled prostheses to 3D-printed organs. With that, doctors have managed to successfully carry out artificial cornea transplants.
Due to a deformed cornea, the 78-year-old patient lost his sight a decade ago. Now, he has made history by being the first to regain his eyesight after being fitted with the implant. The procedure was conducted by Israeli startup CorNeat. They won approval for clinical trials in July last year
The transplant was carried out on January 11 2021, at the Beilinson Hospital in Israel. The procedure was done by the head of ophthalmology at Beilinson Hospital Professor, Irit Bahar.
Chief medical officer of CorNeat Vision, and inventor of the device, Dr Gilad Litvin, stated that the procedure was "relatively simple" and only took an hour to complete. CorNeat Vision has selected 10 trial patients who suffered from corneal blindness. These patients 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. 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," said Professor Irit Bahar.
Litvin was pleased with the results and added that it "surreal" that the team had made a world-first achievement. "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. There were a lot of tears in the room."
As we know, corneal transplants are common procedures to restore eyesight. However, they can only be done with a donor cornea, for which demand is high.
Another alternative is pig corneas which is a viable solution, and the team's success with this procedure could prove life-changing for many other patients suffering from the same thing.
Bahar concluded that he hopes this could help millions of other patients to regain their sight.