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New corneal film treatment can save eye sight for millions of Australians

A new patented treatment could have the potential to restore eyesight for people with corneal disease. The cornea is the transparent layer at the front of the eye that controls and focuses the entry of light into the eye.

Dr Berkay Ozcelik, University of Melbourne, developed the corneal film. (photo credit: Fresh Science).

Dr Berkay Ozcelik, University of Melbourne, developed the corneal film. (photo credit: Fresh Science)

Dr Berkay Ozcelik, a recent Victorian winner of Fresh Science—a national program for early-career researchers—was part of a team of researchers at the University of Melbourne who developed a technique to grow corneal cells in the lab that can be transplanted into the eye. The technique will help grow patient’s own corneal cells which minimises the risks that occur during transplantation.

CERA Associate Professor Mark Daniell, Head, Surgical Research, spoke to news media about the implications of this treatment for corneal transplantation.“The main problem we’ve had with corneal transplants is cell rejection,” he says. “You couldn’t get rejection if they were your own cells.”

Berkay developed the synthetic film used to culture new corneal cells at the Polymer Science Group (the University of Melbourne), working with the Centre for Eye Research Australia. They have successfully restored vision in animal trials. The next phase of the study will be to trial the treatment in human clinical trials.

With more than 2,000 corneal transplants conducted in Australia, and a worldwide shortage, this breakthrough discovery has many implications for corneal donors and potential benefits to people with corneal-disease world-wide.

The study is currently not recruiting patients for the clinical trials of this corneal treatment. Stay up to date with the study’s progress by subscribing to our newsletter Eye-News sign up at www.cera.org.au

Fresh Science is supported by Museum Victoria, CSIRO, Deakin University, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology, the University of Melbourne and New Scientist.