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It is unimaginable for any sighted American to understand what it is like to be blind. More than 12 million Americans over the age of 40 have a type of visual impairment, 1.3 million of these men and women are legally blind. Three million have vision loss after a correction. 8 million have an uncorrected refractive error. However, for some of these Americans, there is new hope.
For men and women whose level of blindness is the result of injury or disease, a bioengineered solution may be available soon.
The sight of 20 people has been restored by a process that creates new corneas from pigskin. This procedure could cure 12.7 million people worldwide whose corneas were damaged beyond repair or destroyed by disease.
Prior to this new discovery, only a transplant could reverse the destruction of their corneas. Only 1 in 70 people have access to a transplant. Linköping University (LiU) and LinkoCare research institute in Sweden developed an alternative from pig skin, a byproduct of the meat industry.
“The results show that it is possible to develop a biomaterial that meets all the criteria for being used as human implants, which can be mass produced and stored up to two years and thereby reach even more people,” said LiU Prof Neil Lagali, a lead researcher.
This comes at precisely the right time. Visual impairment and blindness in the U.S. are expected to double by the year 2050. By the middle of the century, 8 million Americans are expected to experience total blindness. “Another 16.4 million Americans are expected to have difficulty seeing due to correctable refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness) that can be fixed with glasses, contacts, or surgery.”
The National Eye Institute issued the following warning:
“These findings are an important forewarning of the magnitude of vision loss to come. They suggest that there is a huge opportunity for screening efforts to identify people with correctable vision problems and early signs of eye diseases. Early detection and intervention — possibly as simple as prescribing corrective lenses — could go a long way toward preventing a significant proportion of avoidable vision loss,” said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.
Science deniers won’t appreciate this article. However, it is reminiscent of my youth when cures for polio, MMR, and other diseases were being discovered. Scientists were respected for their years of research to save lives and improve the quality of life for everyone.
It is completely illogical for politicians and fake journalists who have no scientific background and no education, which allows them to deny the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine or the dangers presented by their refusal to admit that climate change is caused by man’s use of fossil fuels. Changes all over the world that are creating atmospherical extremes are proof that science is valid, and we must respect their warnings.
As one of six percent of Americans who needed assistance with his vision beginning at age 40, this new procedure offers hope for the future of my grandchildren and their children. It may greatly improve the quality of life for Americans 12 years of age and older in the near future.
By James Turnage, Novelist
Nature Biotechnology: Bioengineered corneal tissue for minimally invasive vision restoration in advanced keratoconus in two clinical cohorts; Mehrdad Rafat et.al.
NIH: Visual impairment, blindness cases in U.S. expected to double by 2050
Simply Insurance: How Many People Are Blind In The U.S.? Plus Over 45 Blindness Statistics (2021); by Sa El