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Lab-grown cornea could replace animal eye tests

eyeThe development, reported in New Scientist, uses donated human stem cells to produce tissues that replicate the outer layers of the eye.


The company behind the work says the resulting organ has cell layers and structures found in the human cornea and that initial tests show it gives reliable results when used to test toxicity.  With further development the artificially-produced cornea might even be suitable for transplants.


FRAME Scientific Director Dr Nirmala Bhogal said:
“This is very exciting work. If this artificial cornea proves to be a protective barrier against eye damage, then it will be a strong contender to replace the Draize irritation test. The Draize rabbit test continues to be used, even though it causes considerable suffering to animals, often resulting in injury or blindness, and in spite of being a poor predictor of human responses.


“Other tests, such as those using the eyes of slaughtered cattle and hens, are useful only for strong irritants, and are poor indicators of human results. A test based on human cells cultured in a way that captures all the most important functions of the cornea is the next best thing to testing on human eyes.”


Archived November 25 2009