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What a sight: In first, Israeli startup develops synthetic cornea aimed at helping millions

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The CorNeat KPro recently received approval to start human trials in Israel, which will begin at Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital

By ILANIT CHERNICK

In a first, Israeli startup CorNeat Vision has developed a synthetic cornea that could restore eyesight to millions around the world.

According to the startup, the CorNeat KPro “is an artificial cornea, keratoprosthesis (KPro), which provides a long-lasting medical solution for corneal blindness, pathology and injury” by bio-integrating with the eye wall. 

“The CorNeat KPro implant is a patented synthetic cornea utilizing advanced cell technology to integrate artificial optics within resident ocular tissue,” it said, adding that it has recently received approval to start human trials in Israel.

The clinical trials are set to begin at Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital in Israel and has been approved by Israel’s Ministry of Health

“It will include 10 corneally blind patients who are not candidates for, or have failed one or more corneal transplantations,” the company said in a press release, adding that the first-in-human implantation will be led by Beilinson’s Ophthalmology Department director, Prof. Irit Bahar. Clinical trials have also been planned to take place later this year in eight leading hospitals in Canada, the United States, France, China and the Netherlands.

Inventor of KPro Gilad Litvin said that the startup is “extremely excited for the CorNeat KPro first-in-human implantation.” 

Litvin, who is also CorNeat Vision’s Chief Medical Officer, explained that “following rigorous pre-clinical testing and successful animal trials, we feel confident moving on and proving our device’s safety and efficacy in humans. 

“Our device’s implantation procedure, which has been developed and perfected in the past four years, does not rely on donor tissue, is relatively simple and takes less than an hour to perform,” he said. “We expect it will enable millions of blind patients around the world, even in areas where there is no corneal practice nor culture of organ donation, to regain their sight.”

Explaining how it works, Litvin said that the CorNeat KPro implant “is designed to replace deformed, scarred or opacified corneas and is expected to fully rehabilitate the vision of corneally blind patients immediately following implantation.” 

The device’s lens integrates with the patient’s ocular tissue “using a unique and patented synthetic non-degradable nano-fabric skirt placed under the conjunctiva.”

For Bahar, she said that Beilinson Hospital is “delighted to take an active part and be the first to implant CorNeat Vision’s novel synthetic cornea.

“The technology behind this implant, which enables [us] to permanently and bio-mechanically attach synthetic materials to live human tissue, is key in turning the tide on global corneal blindness,” she stressed. “The fact that this new device integrates with the eye wall also enables an aesthetic solution as it includes a lens which closely resembles the original cornea.” 

World-renowned Canadian ophthalmologist Prof.David Rootman echoed these thoughts emphasizing that KPro is “poised to revolutionize corneal transplantation.

“Given the implant’s superior optical quality, the simplicity of its implantation, and its integration concept, the CorNeat KPro is expected to gradually erode the use of human tissue for some corneal indications once retention is proved,” he said. “This new solution is completely synthetic and does not rely on donor tissue which can carry a virus or any other disease.

He concluded that  this is “a key differentiator during this COVID-19 crisis which greatly impacted the availability of corneal tissue.”

But this is not the only visionary breakthrough that CorNeat Vision is working on. 

The company currently has several implants that are in various stages of development in the field of cornea, glaucoma and trauma, and a set of patents for additional solutions in the field.

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