The cornea is the clear protective layer covering the eye. Injuries and diseases affecting the cornea might lead to adverse eye problems like blurred visions. The cornea is responsible for filtering out ultraviolet rays that comes from the sun. However, with the advancement in medical technologies and the constant efforts of scientists through research, corneal diseases can be treated. The artificial corneal implants are the most recent of the treatments.
Artificial corneal implants proved to be beneficial because: it caters for the huge number of people who are waiting for corneal transplants and operations for instance Europe has a waiting list of over 40000 people and a worldwide list of 10 million. They are also biocompatible ensuring that there are no complications when in contact with the eye surface. In cases where traditional corneal transplants (also referred as corneal grafts) have failed to work, artificial cornea can be used. The risk of getting diseases from donors is also reduced. It prevents astigmatism and enhances rapid visual recovery. Additionally, they are useful to patients who have not qualified to get living cornea donors.
The artificial cornea implants are made from hydrophilic polymer and protein. The hydrophilic polymer is capable of surviving thermal sterilization of the cornea without getting damaged. It coats the artificial implant which covers the optical front and is at most times moistened by tear fluid. This enables it to move freely with the eyelid. The device is clear and rim shaped. Similarly, in modern cases the artificial cornea has an optically clear central core, porous and a biocompatible skirt the covers the periphery of central core. The central core is made of an inter-penetrating double network of hydrogel. It is nowadays made of a polymerizing double network hydrogel. However, when performing the implants, there are stringent conditions. The most important of this is that it has to fit the human eye around its edges and stay unclouded by the cells at its center. If this goes wrong then the vision becomes blurred and the patient will be required to get a new prosthesis after a short period of time.
Further developments and technology in the world of cornea implant and transplant include the introduction of lasers which provide accurate incisions during surgical operations, the bioengineering method of using stem cells to create corneas and its components. The stem cells are surgically stitched into the patient’s eye around the damaged part. The DSEK is also another method to treat the dreaded cornea diseases and injuries. Further Information.
There are extensive projects that are being undertaken to sensitize the artificial corneal implants like the EU project to produce artificial cornea has boosted the efforts of Joachim Storsberg of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Germany. His work has led to creation of new versions of the artificial corneal implants which has proven to have fewer risks in terms of injuries to the eyes.