In a medical breakthrough seemingly plucked straight from the script of Minority Report, a legally blind 78-year-old man has regained his sight after receiving the world’s first synthetic cornea implant.
According to Israeli news outlet Israel Hayom, the patient had been the inaugural recipient of a new implant developed by a company called CorNeat, and was able to recognize family members and read numbers immediately after surgery.
Dubbed the KPro, the implant is the first synthetic product that can be integrated directly into the eye wall to replace scarred or irregular corneas — the clear layer that protects the front of the eye — without the need for donor tissue. Corneal degeneration is a common ailment among older people, and can also occur as a result of diseases and physical trauma.
While existing treatments are currently in use for cornea-related problems — including other artificial cornea implants — the surgical procedures involved are often complex and usually considered a last resort. By contrast, the KPro implant requires a comparatively simple procedure that involves minimal stitches and cutting, leaving the patient with fewer visible signs of an operation.
What’s more, CorNeat claims its implant uses a biomimetic material that “stimulates cellular proliferation” and leads to “progressive tissue integration,” suggesting its alternative treatment can actually integrate itself into the patient’s existing eye tissue over time. Impressive stuff.
CorNeat Vision co-founder Dr. Gilad Litvin said: “After years of hard work, seeing a colleague implant the CorNeat KPro with ease and witnessing a fellow human being regain his sight the following day was electrifying and emotionally moving, there were a lot of tears in the room.”
After the success of this inaugural operation, the company has said that ten more patients have been approved for similar operations in Israel, before the procedure makes its way to the US, Canada, France, and the Netherlands in the coming months.
My kingdom for an upgrade
Although the procedure represents a significant medical breakthrough and gives hope to thousands suffering with cornea-related impairments, we at TechRadar, in all our childish enthusiasm, couldn’t help but draw comparisons to a certain forward-looking video game.
Cyberpunk 2077 gives players the opportunity to upgrade their bodily hardware through a series of cybernetic implants to gain superhuman-like abilities, and while we’re not suggesting the CorNeat KPro improves a patient’s vision, it certainly seems a major step in the direction towards the commercialisation of synthetic bodily improvements.
In fact, there’s even a scene in the game which sees a doctor (or “ripperdoc”) implant you with a cybernetic eye implant said to “display data on your cornea.” ‘Optical cyberware’ is the name given to the upgrade, giving the player an integrated HUD which allows them to interpret their surroundings.
Naturally, such technology is a long way off, but the breakthrough achieved by CorNeat nonetheless suggests that the gap between technology and the human body is narrowing.