Fish eyes used to repair humans’ vision in answer to shortage of donor corneas actually

Blue Hake

Blue hake fish are being used to provide corneas for human eyes

There’s a crippling, worldwide shortage of human donor corneas – the clear protective layer at the front of the eye. Pioneering doctors are set to use FISH EYES to repair human vision in a medical development which could easily pass for science fiction.

Stocks recently fell by 11% in the UK alone.

The NHS Organ Donor Register recently launched an appeal to boost awareness of the issue, admitting that one in 10 squeamish Brits were not willing to give their eyes up to medicine upon their death.

And the problem is exacerbated further by the fact that corneas can only be stored safely for a month, leaving officials struggling to juggle supplies.

Read more:
Cornea transplants hit record high as more are happy to donate eyes

But now help appears to be on the horizon courtesy of the humble hoki fish, a specimen known for its large peepers and found in abundance off the coast of New Zealand.

Researchers at the University of Auckland say they can harvest proteins from the eyes of the fish and use them to create biomaterials for human ‘corneal tissue engineering’ – ie, manufacturing cornea substitutes.

Marco Richards PR
Dr David Allamby has been working on the project which could use fish eyes for humans

Now leading UK eye surgeon Dr David Allamby, medical director at London’s Focus Clinic, says the news could offer hope for thousands at risk of going blind.

He says: “There’s a huge demand for donor corneas here in the UK and a transplant is often the only way to restore vision following disease or injury, or to correct a hereditary condition.

“In a recent British trial, doctors were able to use an artificial lens in a transplant for the very first time, which is encouraging news indeed.

“But that synthetic technology is still in its infancy, with operations only due to begin next year, so it’s vital that all other avenues are explored also.

“If the fish lens studies prove to be effective, it could transform thousands of lives in this country and worldwide.


Fish eyes are a waste-product of the fishing industry, say experts

“And because the fish eyes are themselves a waste-product of the fishing industry, they’re available in abundance.

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“Effectively the eyes go from being scraps tossed in a bin, to highly-value biomaterials.”

Research fellow Dr Laura Domigan, of the University of Aukland’s School of Biological Sciences, has just been handed a £35,000 Emerging Researcher First Grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

And she argues her method trumps the implant of an artificial lens as there’s less chance of the human body rejecting it.

She explains: “Tissue engineering involves the combination of a biomaterial scaffold with cells to create an implant that supports host tissue regeneration.

“Tissue-engineered corneas offer the opportunity for long-term tissue repair, as opposed to non-degradable artificial corneas, which may result in host rejection and post-operative complications.”

There is a lack of cornea donors which has forced scientists to look in other places

Worldwide, around 10 million people have corneal blindness but only 100,000 transplants are performed annually because of a lack of donor corneas.

Artificial corneas are made from synthetic collagen, grown in a laboratory using DNA techniques.

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During the procedure damaged tissue is removed and the synthetic replacement stitched in its place.

The collagen forms a scaffold for the patient’s own cornea to grow into.

Vision is then expected to be restored within months.

A recent survey by the charity Fight for Sight found people were 15% less likely to donate eyes than any other parts of the body.

Of those who would not donate their corneas, 29% said it was because they were the most ‘personal’ part of their body while 27% said it would ‘upset their family’.

One in three respondents said it was because their eyes were ‘unique’ to them, while one in six said it was for ‘spiritual’ reasons.

Russell Howard donates his voice to promote organ donation:

Russell Howard donates his voice to promote organ donation

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Fight For Sight’s spokeswoman Dr Dolores Conroy said: “There is a need for 70 corneas per week with the main indications being keratoconus in younger people and endothelial failure – Fuchs dystrophy – in older people.

“With the lack of corneas available for transplants, it’s vital to have new treatments.

“We are developing stem cells therapies to repair the damage to the cornea, gene-replacement therapies and drugs that may be delivered as eye drops to repair faulty genes.”