Bioengineered pig skin implants restore eyesight for 19 people — including 14 deemed legally blind

A team of scientists at the Linköping University in Sweden have developed a way to help people with damaged corneas and even restored the eyesight of 19 during a recent clinical trial, Gizmodo reported.

The scientists restored people’s eyesight using bioengineered implants created from pig skin — including several deemed legally blind.

Corneas tend to heal from minor abrasions with relative ease. However, significant damage and some diseases can lead to permanent damage, requiring a corneal graft, or a transplant, to restore vision.

Like various donated organs, corneas have to be used timeously and are often in short supply.

However, bioengineered implants from pig skin could provide a mass-produced alternative to corneal grafts.

Cornea implant made of collagen protein from pig’s skin. Photo: Thor Balkhed/Linköping University

The team published their research in the Nature Biotechnology journal, detailing how they used the implants on 20 patients with advanced keratoconus — a disease that causes the cornea to progressively thin out.

Significant eyesight improvements were observed in 19 of the 20 patients, of which 14 were previously considered legally blind.

The patients’ improved vision has persisted for two years, with no reported adverse effects.

“The results show that it is possible to develop a biomaterial that meets all the criteria for being used as human implants, which can be mass-produced and stored up to two years and thereby reach even more people with vision problems,” study author Mehrdad Rafat said in a statement.

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