Artificial corneas could soon become a reality

Hyderabad: Artificial corneas could become a
reality in the next 4-5 years with a premier research
organisation here saying that it should be possible to achieve
a breakthrough in developing them and put an end to reliance
on eye donations.

Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular
Biology (CCMB) Mohan Rao said two layers of the cornea have
already been developed and the remaining part, which is crux
of the cornea, will take substantial time and the success of
the project may see an end of eye donation era in the country.

"We believe it should be possible. My rough estimate is
in 4-5 years. If this project is successful there is no
question of eye donation. We will be able to make artificial
corneas in large numbers," Rao said.

The project which could be major achievement in medical
history, and if successful may become boon for millions of
cataract patients, waiting for cornea donors for replacement,
he said.

Presently, doctors are using an intra-ocular lens (an
implanted lens) in the eye, usually replacing the existing
crystalline lens which has been clouded over by a cataract.

It usually consists of a small plastic lens with plastic
side struts to hold the lens in place.

Explaining the project, Rao said they cannot make cornea
in plastic due to its shape.

"We can develop endothelium cell and artificially produce
the whole cornea in a laboratory. The cornea is multi-layered.

So actually we have to build a composite structure. This is
not an easy thing. Everybody in the world is trying to see if
it is possible," he said. Rao also said they are working with LV Prasad Eye
Institute, a city-based eye research centre and hospital on
the project. LV Prasad has already been successfully using the
first cornea layer developed by CCMB.

The CCMB is also engaged in stem cell research in which
stem cells are produced in large numbers and can be used in
therapeutic usage which is at the moment not possible.

"There is possibility that the stem cells can be used for
any person and taken from anyone. In that case also, we will
need large quantities. We are developing nano technology
approaches for this purpose," the CCMB chief said.

He said so far there is no such system where stem cells
can be preserved for a longer period.