Israeli doctors make history as artificial cornea implant restores man’s vision

After a decade of blindness, 78-year-old Jamal Furani could see again
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PETAH TIKVA — On January 3 2021, Israeli start-up CorNeat successfully helped a 78-year-old legally blind man regain his vision with a synthetic cornea impact, the company announced. The first-ever in-human implantation of their proprietary prosthetic, called CorNeat KPro, took place at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel and was performed by Professor Irit Bahar, the company said.

“The surgical procedure was straightforward and the result exceeded all of our expectations,” Dr Bahar, head of the Ophthalmology Department, said to Cision. “The moment we took off the bandages was an emotional and significant moment.”

After a decade of blindness, Jamal Furani could finally see again. 

When Dr Bahar held up an eye chart to Furani, he was able to read the numbers.

Furani and his daughter Khulud rejoiced, as captured on video by Channel 13 News. 

“Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart,” he said to Dr Bahar, who has called the technology the “key to turning the tide on global blindness,” according to Israel Hayom

The inventor of the CorNeat KPro and company co-founder Dr Gilad Litvin was also present for the watershed operation.

“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,” he said. “There were a lot of tears in the room.”

CorNeat’s prosthetic cornea is designed to replace deformed, scarred, or opacified corneas, bio-integrating with the eye wall without any donor tissues, according to the company. 

Approved by the Health Ministry in July 2020, as reported by Israel Hayom, the CorNeat KPro “is expected to fully and immediately rehabilitate the vision of corneally blind patients following a relatively simple implantation procedure”.

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Furani told Channel 13 News that he had previously undergone four operations to repair his damaged cornea but they all failed. With every surgical procedure, the chances of the next attempt to succeed are greatly reduced due to the eye’s exposure to additional infections.

CorNeat’s artificial cornea, by contrast, does not induce adverse immune responses due to the “bio-mechanical integration of permanent implants with live tissue”.

According to the company, the biomimetic material “stimulates cellular proliferation, leading to progressive tissue integration.” 

Dr Babar said that artificial cornea implantations, formally known as keratoprosthesis, are highly complex and difficult to execute. “People arriving at such a surgery are with their back against the wall.”

Indeed, Furani told Channel 13 News that he had also lost independence when he lost his sight.

“If my wife was alive and I was totally blind, I wouldn’t worry as she was my eyes,” he said. 

Furani’s grandson was born a couple of months ago, his daughter told Channel 13 News. With his vision rescued, Furani will now be able to behold his grandchild for the first time.

“As much as you are happy, I’m even happier,” Furani said to a hospital staff member as they celebrated in the video. “I want to see.”

Wiki Production Code: A0492

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