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Breakthrough UK discovery

Breakthrough UK discovery could answer world shortage of donor corneas

Monday 30 October 2017

A new discovery by a group of Newcastle-based scientists could massively reduce the need for donor corneas - which would be welcome news given the chronic shortage of corneas available for transplant not just in the UK but also across Europe and the USA.

The current alternative – plastic corneas – runs the risk of rejection by the body. And lab grown corneas have always been something of a problem, as the large amount of aligned collagen required to replicate the cornea in the human eye has always proved very difficult to recreate. Until now.

The team have discovered a new method of growing cells from human donors on a curved surface, which leads to the cells arranging themselves in the precise lattice formation which gives human lenses their strength and transparency. Lead researcher Professor Che Connan says: “This has never been seen before and has an important impact on how we think and develop new artificial tissues for human transplantation.” It is hoped that the new artificial corneas will be available for tests on humans within the next two years.

Ironically, the current donor shortage is due in part to the increasing availability of laser eye surgery, which renders corneas unusable for transplant. With the number of such operations steadily on the rise, the discovery could not come at a better time.


  1. BBC News:
    Newcastle scientists eye-up cornea “breakthrough”.

  2. Newcastle University:
    Curve-eye-ture: how to grow artificial corneas.


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