Melbourne researchers say they have successfully grown and implanted cornea cells to cure blindness.
The cells were grown on a layer of synthetic film and transplanted into the eyes of animals, restoring vision.
Researchers are now preparing for human trials.
The technique, developed by researchers at Melbourne University and the Centre for Eye Research, could replace transplants of donated cornea.
The cornea is a transparent layer at the front of the eye. A layer of cells on its inner surface keeps it moist by “pumping” water out of it.
Trauma, disease and aging can reduce the number of these cells leading to deterioration and blindness.
Research scientist Berkay Ozcelik said it was an important breakthrough.
“We believe that our new treatment is better than a donated cornea and we eventually hope to use the patient’s own cells, reducing the risk of rejection,” he said.
About a third of transplants fail because of rejection.
Victor Fortemann has had two failed cornea transplants and now needs another.
“I think that would be tremendous because the need for steroids to keep the graft in place would fall away,” he said.