A report in the latest issue
of Science reports that Canadian researchers were able to get human corneal
cells growing on an artificial protein surface for the first time. The
resulting organism was structurally similar to the human cornea and from
initial tests appears to function much like a human cornea.
This is a major advance for
two reasons. First, today the only place to get a new cornea is through
a transplant. Growing artificial corneas in the lab could be a huge boon
in treating vision problems — although any such use would be years off.
Second, because the artificial corneas appear to react exactly as normal
human corneas, they could be used as a substitute for animals in testing
the effect of substances on the eyes.
Alan Goldberg, director of
the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, told WebMD that he was
encouraged by the possibility of the artificial lenses to replace animal
tests, although he cautioned it will still take quite a bit of research
in the near future to establish for certain that tests on the artificial
corneas produce results that are adequate enough to replace animal testing.
“I’m super-encouraged,” he said, “but I’m also saying it’s not there yet.”
corneas may benefit research”, WebMD, December 9, 1999.
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