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Researchers at the University of Melbourne have developed tissue-engineered corneal endothelium (TECE) grafts for the treatment of corneal dysfunction. The grafts overcome the limitations of current treatment methods, which rely on tissue donation. Studies in sheep show that the TECE grafts can restore the function of the corneal endothelium.
Corneal dysfunction, and in particular, ageing, disease, and trauma of the endothelial layer of the cornea, is a common cause of blindness. When the endothelium is disrupted, it can no longer maintain clarity of the cornea. The cornea needs to be transparent in order to allow light through to the retina.
The standard treatment is to replace the affected endothelial layer of the cornea with portions of a donor cornea. However, this approach is limited by the availability of donors, cultural or individual aversion to donor transplants, and tissue rejection. Yet, with an ageing population, demand for treatment is increasing.
The TECE grafts are based on a bioresorbable polymer hydrogel film that is seeded with autologous or allogeneic corneal endothelial cells.
A patent for the biodegradable polymers has been granted (filed 10 April 2014).
First published on 20 August 2020.
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