Results from a recent study were published in the Nature Biotechnology journal that shared the details of transplanting corneas made from pig collagen to 20 recipients, 14 of which were completely blind.
Currently, it is estimated that 12.7 million people worldwide are currently waiting for
a cornea transplant. There is only one cornea available for every 70 people needing it. Because of this high need for corneas, researchers have been exploring alternatives to human corneas.
Swedish researchers tested corneas made from pig collagen in 20 people. Two years after transplantation, all twenty recipients showed improvement and those who were blind had their vision restored.
Collagen is the main protein in the human cornea so the researchers used medical-grade collagen sourced from swine. The collagen is widely used in medical devices for glaucoma surgery as well as for wound dressing. These bioengineered corneas have a longer shelf-life of two years compared to human corneas which must be used in less than two weeks.
Researchers are encouraged by these initial study results and more testing will be needed to determine the effectiveness of the pig collagen corneas.