Blind Man Regains Sight After Israeli Company Implants Artificial Cornea

Prodecure could be the "key to turning the tide on global blindness."

An elderly man who lost his sight ten years ago suddenly regained his vision in Israel after an artificial cornea developed by an Israeli company was implanted in his eye.

As reported by Israel HaYom, Israel-based startup CorNeat successfully transplanted an artificial cornea into a 78-year-old man’s eye. The CorNeat KPro implant replaces deformed, scarred or opacified corneas as it melds with the eye wall. “The lens of the device is designed to integrate with ocular tissue using a patented synthetic non-degradable nanofabric skirt, which is placed under the conjunctiva,” Israel HaYom explained last July.

Professor Irit Bahar, head of the Ophthalmology Department at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel, conducted the procedure, which left the patient capable of recognizing his family and reading words.

“The surgical procedure was straightforward and the result exceeded all of our expectations,” said Bahar. “The moment we took off the bandages was emotional and significant. Moments like these are the fulfillment of our calling as doctors. We are proud of being at the forefront of this exciting and meaningful project which will undoubtedly impact the lives of millions.”

Dr. Gilad Litvin, the inventor of the artificial cornea, said, “Unveiling this first implanted eye and being in that room, in that moment, was surreal. After years of hard work, seeing a colleague implant the CorNeat KPro with ease and witnessing a fellow human being regain his sight the following day was electrifying and emotionally moving, there were a lot of tears in the room.”

Last summer, CorNeat Vision received approval to run clinical trials of the artificial cornea on 10 patients who had corneal blindness. Litvin said at the time, “We expect it will enable millions of blind patients around the world, even in areas where there is no corneal practice nor culture of organ donation, to regain their sight.” Bahar added that the technology intended to be used could be the “key to turning the tide on global blindness.”

An article published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology last July stated:

Corneal opacities are the fourth leading cause of blindness worldwide after cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Among these corneal opacities, the major causes include trachoma, infectious keratitis, xerophthalmia, use of traditional eye medicines, and ocular trauma. Unlike glaucoma and macular degeneration, corneal opacities sometimes can be reversed or removed, restoring vision to the eye. Unfortunately, corneal transplantation is not always possible, practical, or successful, and as such, the mission to eliminate corneal blindness requires more than just increasing access to transplantation. … It has been estimated that 12.7 million people worldwide have moderate to severe vision loss (vision less than 20/60) amenable to surgical correction and are actively awaiting a corneal transplant. In contrast, based on the limited eye banking facilities in much of the developing world, more than half of the world’s population has practically no access to cornea transplantation.