Reading team receives funding to develop prosthetic cornea

Reading University researchers have been awarded a grant worth £815,000 to develop a prosthetic cornea that could restore sight to patients whose corneas are damaged.

Dr Che Connon, from the university’s school of pharmacy, will be working with Prof Ian Hamley in the Reading department of chemistry to engineer a tissue suitable for cornea transplantation that uses human stem cells.

The research team will develop a prosthetic cornea comprised solely of human cells and proteins, whose growth and development will be directed by a synthetic polymer template that mimics the cornea’s natural architecture.

Connon said: ’Instead of applying a traditional approach to the design and use of biocompatible polymers for tissue replacement, our approach is to involve the cells themselves in the production of the actual biomaterial.’

The current research stems from Connon’s work in understanding the molecular structure underpinning corneal transparency, the development of corneal biomaterials and the limitations of current corneal stem-cell transplantation techniques — specifically the materials used to grow and convey the stem cells to the patient.

The three-year research project has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).