London: Lab grown artificial corneas have been transplanted into patients` eyes for the first time, offering hope to millions of partially sighted people.
The new technique involves growing human tissue or collagen in the lab and then shaping it, using a contact lens mould.
Damaged and scarred tissue from the front of the eye is then removed and the "biosynthetic" replacement is stitched in its place, reports the Telegraph.
Ultimately, existing cells and nerves in the eye grow over the artificial cornea, incorporating it fully into the eye.
Globally, diseases that lead to clouding of the cornea affect more than 10 million people, making them the most common cause of blindness.
The first trials of the operation have shown that it is just as successful as live tissue transplantation and in some cases patients have had their sight fully restored.
May Griffiths, of Linköping University, Sweden, who led the study, said: "We were very excited by the results. The study is the first to show that an artificially fabricated cornea can integrate with the human eye and stimulate regeneration."
"With further research, this approach could help restore sight to millions of people who are waiting for a donated human cornea for transplantation," Griffiths added.
The cornea is a vulnerable shield or lens protecting the eye and plays a key role in creating vision.
Patients did not experience any rejection reaction or require long-term immune suppression, which are serious side-effects associated with the use of human donor tissue.
The bio-synthetic corneas also became sensitive to touch and began producing normal tears to keep the eye oxygenated.