In yet another evidence of India’s growing mettle in science and technology, our country has been able to bring stem cells, an erstwhile confined to research paper phenomena to real-world applications. The icing on the cake is that the stem cells will be applied to the eyes, one of the most complex organs of the human body.
Liquid Cornea – Eye of the future
Bangalore’s Pandorum Technologies, a tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine company has successfully bioengineered liquid cornea which will permanently solve the problem of blindness in the country. The liquid cornea is comprised of novel hydrogel (a gel that has water in it) which will heal the wounded site. The gel can circumscribe itself on the site. It prevents further wear and tear as well as healing the site.
Tuhin Bhowmick, the cofounder of Pandorum Technologies had, in 2019, termed it a big milestone. Talking to the media, he had said, “Being able to bio-engineer critical tissues such as the human cornea is a significant milestone.”
The company is collaborating with L.V. Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), a Hyderabad-based institute that has served more than 2.6 Crores people till now. To bring this gel into reality, eminent personalities like Cornea surgeons Dr Virender Sangwan and Dr Sayan Basu, and scientist Dr Vivek Singh from LVPEI have been grinding day and night for the project.
Cornea – responsible for 70 percent of our vision
The cornea is the transparent part of the eye that covers the front portion of the eye. Its main function is to refract or bend, light. The cornea is responsible for focusing most of the light that enters the eye. Some estimates suggest that it focuses more than 70 percent of the light.
Sorry state of eye donations in India
Until now, in most of the cases where cornea had been affected, it translated into either partial or total loss of the vision for the person. For the affected person to be able to see again, he/she would have to wait for another person’s donated cornea for surgery. According to the Eye bank association of India, a total of 11,00,000 lakh people have been hit by blindness.
Every year 100,000 people require eye transplants whereas our health and medical system can meet the needs of only 25000 people. The covid pandemic has made the situation even worse. During the one year from April 2020 to March 2021, only 12,998 transplants were possible across the country, which is 52 percent less than the average.
Stem cells – An accelerator in recovering from injuries
There are many such innovations all over the country and abroad that are working on regenerative technology such as organovo, tissue, carmat, syncardia. The fundamental idea behind all these processes is simple. Whenever any organ of the body is hurt or wounded, they lose cells which result in wear and tear. Some organs have the capacity to regenerate their cells at a rapid pace on their own. However, some are either slow or are not capable of doing it. These technologies will be able to replace these cells with as much ease as we replace our house furniture.
Whether it is the covid pandemic or any other humanitarian crisis, India has always been at the forefront of serving humanity. After India’s vaccine exports, the liquid cornea will be India’s next big contribution to the medical world.