Science, you never cease to amaze.
According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people worldwide have some kind of visual impairment. About 14% of those with visual impairments are blind. Blindness is a difficult disability, especially in regions where access to medical help is scarce and expensive. That may soon change, though.
A team of Australian scientists just announced a new medical treatment that has the potential to reverse blindness and restore vision. If that sounds incredible to you, that's because it is. Their method basically involves growing cornea cells on a type of film which is then placed inside the eye like a bandaid for cornea damage. Right now, the treatment is kicking some serious butt in animal trials and will soon be tested on humans too -- maybe even as soon as 2017.
Corneal transplants already exist, but this method will be a lot smoother (it also won't require a willing donor to give up their corneas, as those are pretty hard to find due to global transplant demand). Berkay Ozcelik, one of the biomedical engineers involved in its development, says "our new treatment performs better than a donated cornea, and we hope to eventually use the patient's own cells, reducing the risk of rejection." Their so-called hydrogel will eliminate a lot of the room for error involved with corneal transplants. The nice part is that the film also dissolves after two months, so recipients won't be wearing it permanently. If a hydrogel dissolves from a cornea and no one is around to see it, did it even exist?