Research ArticleTissue Engineering

A Biosynthetic Alternative to Human Donor Tissue for Inducing Corneal Regeneration: 24-Month Follow-Up of a Phase 1 Clinical Study

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Science Translational Medicine  25 Aug 2010:
Vol. 2, Issue 46, pp. 46ra61
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001022

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Corneas from human donors are used to replace damaged tissue and treat corneal blindness, but there is a severe worldwide shortage of donor corneas. We conducted a phase 1 clinical study in which biosynthetic mimics of corneal extracellular matrix were implanted to replace the pathologic anterior cornea of 10 patients who had significant vision loss, with the aim of facilitating endogenous tissue regeneration without the use of human donor tissue. The biosynthetic implants remained stably integrated and avascular for 24 months after surgery, without the need for long-term use of the steroid immunosuppression that is required for traditional allotransplantation. Corneal reepithelialization occurred in all patients, although a delay in epithelial closure as a result of the overlying retaining sutures led to early, localized implant thinning and fibrosis in some patients. The tear film was restored, and stromal cells were recruited into the implant in all patients. Nerve regeneration was also observed and touch sensitivity was restored, both to an equal or to a greater degree than is seen with human donor tissue. Vision at 24 months improved from preoperative values in six patients. With further optimization, biosynthetic corneal implants could offer a safe and effective alternative to the implantation of human tissue to help address the current donor cornea shortage.


  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Citation: P. Fagerholm, N. S. Lagali, K. Merrett, W. B. Jackson, R. Munger, Y. Liu, J. W. Polarek, M. Söderqvist, M. Griffith, A biosynthetic alternative to human donor tissue for inducing corneal regeneration: 24-month follow-up of a phase 1 clinical study.Sci. Transl. Med. 2, 46ra61 (2010).

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