Opacification of the cornea of the human eye results in the loss of vision and finally blindness unless corrected by a corneal transplant. In developed countries the standard surgical technology to restore vision is the replacement of the cornea by a human donor cornea in a penetrating keratoplasty. More than 40.000 keratoplasties per year are performed in Europe and the United States each, with a continuous increase in recent years, and with success rates from more than 90 to less than 50 percent. Low success rates are associated with dry eyes, Herpes keratitis, corneal vascularization, recurring uveitis, acid burns, and traumatic anatomic structures of the anterior eye. The lack of donor corneas resulted in long waiting lists of patients in developed countries, and their non-availability in developing countries in millions of treatable blind people. There is a long history of attempts to replace the human cornea by alloplastic material with either disappointing results, or complicated multiple surgeries associated with severe drawbacks for the patient. The CORNEA project will combine the invention of a novel corneal transplant by one SME partner with novel flexible ophthalmic polymers developed by a second, the manufacturing technology of a third, and the surgical instruments and technology of two more SME partners. This combined SME know-how will be merged with the surface modification technology to be developed by one RTD partner and the ophthalmo-surgical expertise, and preclinical and clinical research capacities of two more RTD partners. Thus the project CORNEA will combine several cutting-edge technologies in order to achieve a never before available implant design and precision of surgery, and open the chance to regain vision for otherwise blind people. It will give a long-term competitive advantage and profit to the members of the consortium, and secure existing and create new working places.
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