Surgeons have an ophthalmic operation on Zhang Hua.
(ECNS) -- A 27-year-old man is able to see again with his right eye thanks to a successful pig cornea transplant at Third Xiangya Hospital in Central China's Hunan Province, Beijing Youth Daily reported.
His sight recovered to 0.3 after the operation, according to his doctor, surnamed Cao. The man had necrotic stromal keratitis and could see almost nothing.
Treatment required a new cornea, but the number of donated human corneas is far fewer than demand.
The transplant doesn't involve placing a pig's cornea directly on the human eye, oculist Cao explained, but uses the animal's three-dimensional structure to help form new corneal tissues. The procedure also requires special technological treatment.
The cornea of a pig is the most similar among animals to humans in some parameters, which makes it the best choice as a temporary replacement, said Tang Renhong, director of the cornea transplant center at the hospital.
Tang added it was not the first time the center conducted such surgery. Pig corneas do not need a vascular supply, so the success rate can reach 90 percent, but how long a patient can maintain eyesight depends on whether the transplant is rejected by the body or not, he said.
The procedure was researched and developed by a company in South China's Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, and began to be applied in clinic in 2016, Tang explained, adding that some hospitals in Beijing and Wuhan in Hubei Province started to conduct such surgeries last year. To date, there are less than 10 successful cases on record.