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Artificially Grown Corneas Could Be Used for Transplants and Drug, Cosmetic Testing

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"The study has a lot of potential, but this technique is not ready for use at the present time," says David R. Whikehart, PhD, in an interview seeking an objective assessment of the study.

"Their 'immortalized' cells are expected to grow continuously. Unfortunately what often develops in such cells are chromosomal abnormalities," says Whikehart, a professor at the Vision Science Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He doubts whether such cells could function as normal corneal cells.

"If these cells are, in fact, 'immortalized' they are going to continue to grow," Whikehart tells WebMD. "Normally, corneal cells ... are contact inhibited -- they stop growing when they make contact with each other. If these cells do not stop growing, the result would be a deformed cornea and doubtful vision."

H. Dwight Cavanagh, MD, PhD, a corneal surgeon and biologist, questions whether these particular lab-grown human corneas will be useful for either toxicity testing or as transplants.

"Their goal is laudable and the study represents a potential breakthrough, but it should not be ballyhooed as a solution to either the toxicity problem or the transplant problem," Cavanagh tells WebMD.

Griffith's research was supported by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association through the Medical Research Council of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and from Proctor & Gamble Co. through the International Program for Animal Alternatives.

Vital Information:

  • Scientists have developed artificial human corneas that look and function like real ones.
  • The researchers hope that the artificial tissue will one day be used for transplants or to replace animal testing for drugs and cosmetics.
  • Objective commentators say those uses aren't currently possible.
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