Researchers restore human sight with collagen molecules from pig skin

Corneas Bioengineered from Pig Collagen: Researchers and entrepreneurs in Sweden have developed an implant made of collagen protein from pig's skin, which resembles the human cornea.

Key Highlights:

  • In a pilot testing, the implant was used to successfully restore the vision of 20 people in India and Iran, majority of whom were blind due to keratoconus, a disease that leads to thinning of the cornea.
  • The study was jointly led by researchers at Linköping and LinkoCare Life Sciences AB.
  • The study has been published in Nature Biotechnology.

Key Points:

  • An estimated 12.7 million people around the world are blind due to their corneas, which is the outermost transparent layer of the eye, being damaged or diseased particularly affecting those in poorer countries where there is a scarcity of donated human corneas.
  • Researchers claim that just one in 70 patients receives a cornea transplant.
  • As a substitute for human corneas, the researchers utilized medical-grade collagen derived from pig skin that were highly purified and produced under strict conditions for human use.
  • The pig skin used is a byproduct of the food industry which is already used in medical devices for glaucoma surgery.
  • According to the study, this is not only cheaper and easier to access than donated corneas, but requires a less invasive procedure.
  • While donated corneas must be used within two weeks, the bioengineered corneas can be stored for up to two years before use.