Recently, a 27 year-old man from Southern China successfully regained his eyesight after receiving transplantation surgery using a pig’s cornea. Although this surgery is not the first, it is one of a handful that have been carried out in the world, and is a huge breakthrough in the world of vision and Xenotransplantation (using animals as donors).Although using a pig’s cornea to help improve vision might sound absurd, there’s a chance that one day it could become standard procedure!
Let’s start with the cornea...what exactly is it?
The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye. It lies directly in front of the iris and pupil, and allows light to enter the eye. In addition, the cornea provides approximately 65 to 75 percent of the focusing power of the eye. It is therefore pivotal in our ability to see.
According to the World Health Organisation:
- Corneal blindness is the 4th largest cause of blindness globally (5.1%)
- Trachoma is responsible for near 4.9 million people’s visual deficiencies, mainly as a result of corneal scarring and vascularisation
- Corneal visual impairment encompasses a wide variety of infectious and inflammatory eye diseases that cause corneal scarring, which ultimately leads to functional vision loss
Why are we not using human corneal donations?
In the UK, around 2,000 people donate their corneas after their death, but there still remains a shortage. Often the only solution to a damaged cornea is a transplant, and the lack of donors available is worsened by the fact they have a brief shelf-life.
For the 27 year old man in China, having a pig’s corneal transplantation surgery was the only viable way of repairing his vision after chronic inflammation severely damaged his eyesight.
Fortunately, however, the success rates of cornea operations are high and they can really be sight saving procedures! The NHS have stated that 93% of transplants function after one year, and by five years, 74% of transplants are still functioning, many continuing for a long time after this also.
What is Xenotransplantation?
Xenotransplantation is the idea of using parts of animals as donors for humans. The successful transplant surgery of a pig’s corneal has been a huge step forward in the industry of animal transplant and has proved to be a beacon of hope for other types of transplants.
What does this mean for the future?
With high success rates so far, pig cornea transplants are sure to grow with increasing scientific literature and established protocols within the medical society.
Vision is a huge part of how many of us experience the world around us, and it’s good to see medical breakthroughs like this occurring.
If you are interested in vision correction at Focus Clinics please call us on 0207 307 8250 and book a free consultation.