Scientists have discovered that corneas made from pig collagen are able to restore vision for people legally blind or visually impaired, after surgery.
Corneal transplants require a human donor and only one in 70 people are fortunate to receive one. However, Mehrdad Rafat at Linköping University in Sweden solved the near-impossible dilemma by inventing a flexible and resilient contact lens from extracted and purified pig collagen.
After successful trials, the contact lens was tested in human volunteers, detailed Nature Biotechnology journal.
The 20 people part of the study had corneal blindness due to a condition called, keratoconus, where the cornea thins and bulges outward from the centre of the eye.
Fourteen participants were legally blind before the surgery and six had severely impaired vision. The successful study restored sight to all participants and improved their vision, while three of them reported having 20/20 vision after their procedure.
Recipients part of the experimental study didn't report any serious side effects or complications, two years after the procedure.
Collagen isn't generally rejected by an immune system because it lacks individual cells. As a result, the recipients only used immunosuppressive eye drops for eight weeks, post-surgery, instead of a lifetime medication to avoid body rejection.
Esen Akpek at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, however, doesn't believe the discovery is groundbreaking since previous alternatives to donor corneas had emerged in the past but never took off.
Nonetheless, Rafat is more optimistic about his discovery and says the procedure may cost lesser than a human donor transplant surgery.