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EU effort against blindness

Millions of people are blind or vision impaired due to disease or trauma of the eye’s outer window, the cornea. Linköping University and the University Hospital were the first in the world to transplant biosynthetic corneas, made of human collagen, into patients. Now the European Union is funding a new, important step for cornea research.

A blind cornea“Arrest blindness (Advanced Regenerative and REStorative Therapies to combat corneal BLINDNESS) is an EU Horizon 2020 project that will start in 2016 just after the New Year, with a budget of EUR 6 million (around SEK 57 million). Over four years, researchers and companies from eight countries will develop new methods and strategies to repair damaged and non-functioning corneas.

The senior coordinator for the project – which with 14 European partners is Europe’s largest effort in cornea research to date – is Neil Lagali, reader at the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine.

Docent Neil Lagali”The project entails developing and testing a new generation of regenerative treatments to treat blinding conditions of the cornea which cannot be treated today. Some patients have non-functioning corneal stem cells, while others have blood vessels that grow into the cornea and make the tissue opaque (see image above). Other conditions involve a deficiency in the sensitive endothelial cells which maintain transparency or a loss of nerves and their associated growth factors. All of these conditions can lead to blindness,” says Mr Lagali.

The unique aspect of the project is that researchers and corneal surgeons from across Europe will collaborate to develop innovative, targeted regenerative therapies for a broader range of conditions than ever before. The project consists of several translational studies and four clinical trials in different countries.

“We have new innovative technologies in regenerative medicine which we are excited to evaluate and translate into clinical use. This project represents an important and necessary step to give cornea-blind patients new hope,” Mr Lagali says.

The other LiU researchers involved in the project are Assistant Professor Mehrdad Rafat at the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Professor Per Fagerholm at the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine.

 

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Last updated: 2017-02-13