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A corneal transplant with pig cells

In France you have to do this every year 8,000 corneas to meet corneal transplant needs Population. In view of the lack of donors, medical teams have to import around 1,600 corneas every year. To better meet the demand for corneas, researchers are trying to develop other types of transplants, including pig cell corneal transplants. A recent study on this subject has just been published in the journal natural biotechnology.

8,000 corneal transplants every year in France

Corneal transplantation, scientifically known as full-thickness keratoplasty, aims to replace a pathological cornea whose opacity impairs vision with a healthy cornea. There are many indications for corneal transplantation:

  • Bullous dystrophies after cataract surgery, accounting for between 20 and 50% of transplants. Optimization of cataract surgical techniques could reduce corneal transplants in this indication in the coming years;
  • Keratoconus, a progressive disease that causes progressive deformation of the cornea. This cause can account for up to 30% of corneal transplants;
  • Infectious keratitis, inflammatory diseases of the cornea associated with infection, especially by the herpes virus;
  • Fuchs’ dystrophy and hereditary dystrophies are rarer causes;
  • corneal graft failure leading to repeat surgeries;
  • As well as corneal scars after severe eye trauma.

This procedure allows the patient to regain vision, with 85% probability of success. In addition, as with any transplant, the patient must carry out preventive treatment against transplant rejection. This treatment includes corticosteroids and immunosuppressants.

Towards an alternative to the cornea of ​​a deceased donor

Nowadays, Corneal transplants are performed from healthy corneas taken from a deceased donor. However, in recent years, more and more families have been reluctant to accept this type of organ harvesting, contributing to the recurring shortage of available transplants. Another option for researchers and physicians would be to turn to other types of transplants: transplants of animal origin, synthetic transplants, a mixture of a synthetic substrate and human cells.

This potential breakthrough in corneal transplantation is the subject of active research, as evidenced by the recently published porcine cell corneal transplantation study. In this study, researchers developed a corneal tissue obtained from a synthetic substrate associated with porcine cells. They conducted a pilot clinical study in India and Iran to implant this corneal tissue using a minimally invasive method in 20 patients with an advanced form of keratoconus.

Improved vision and good tolerability

With this new form of corneal transplant, doctors do not remove any existing corneal tissue or sutures. They restored the cornea to its normal shape by implanting the artificial corneal tissue. The patients transplanted in this way were observed over a period of 24 months without any side effects occurring.

At the end of the follow-up period, the researchers observed an improvement of :

  • corneal thickness (average increase of 209 µm in India, 285 µm in Iran);
  • keratometry measurements (measurement of the radius of curvature of the cornea);
  • visual acuity.

All 14 patients, who were blind when they entered the study, saw an improvement in their vision and were able to wear contact lenses to improve their vision. The results of this study suggest that the use of a synthetic cornea made from porcine cells might be possible an interesting alternative to corneal transplantation from human cornea. A solution that could be developed in the coming years to better meet the needs of patients.

Estelle B., Doctor of Pharmacy


– Bioengineered corneal tissue for minimally invasive vision restoration in advanced keratoconus in two clinical cohorts. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
– Corneal transplantation (penetrating keratoplasty). Retrieved September 21, 2022.

#corneal #transplant #pig #cells

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