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Then Griffith, working with Linkoping University eye surgeon Dr. Per Fagerholm, studied the bioartificial cornea in 10 patients with severe vision loss from damage to a corneal layer. Damaged tissue in one eye was removed, and the new biosynthetic cornea implanted. Soon, cells that line a healthy cornea started growing in the collagen. Tear production normalized, and even corneal nerves regrew, something researchers could test by measuring sensitivity. There was no rejection, and patients didn't need immune-suppressing medication.
Two years later, six of the patients had significantly improved vision with glasses and two were no worse. When implanted with contact lenses that previously they couldn't tolerate, patients saw as well as a similar group of patients who had received standard corneal transplants.
Duke's Carlson cautioned that these weren't full-thickness corneal transplants -- the lowest layer of the patients' original corneas wasn't replaced. People with these more upper-layer corneal problems make up about 10 percent of transplant cases, he said, while the bigger hurdle is creating therapy for harder-to-treat full-thickness damage to what's called endothelial cells.
But he called the experimental technology a step toward that goal, and Griffith said she is planning larger studies and will try to extend the therapy to a wider range of vision loss.
Science Translational Medicine: http://stm.sciencemag.org/
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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