The English expression “long time, no see” took on a quite literal meaning with Israeli medical science restoring sight to the blind
By David E. Kaplan
It was like a miracle out of the Bible when an Israeli resident from Haifa “saw the light”! However, it was all about science, not divine intervention.
And yet there was something majestically “biblical” about the scene played out at the Rabin Medical Center when a 78 year-old BLIND man from Haifa on the 3rd of January was able to see his youngest grandchild – only three months old!
An Arab from Haifa, Jamal Furani had gradually lost most of his vision over the past decade due to corneal disease.
If someone resembling a friend or neighbour stood in front of him, “I would not be able to tell the difference,” he said. His cause had seemed lost following four donor transplants to try to restore his vision. All had failed!
That was until the 3rd of January 2021 when he became the first patient to receive the KPro artificial cornea from CorNeat Vision in Ra’anana.
Prof. Irit Bahar, Chief of Ophthalmology at Beilinson Hospital of Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva who performed the implant surgery, explained that “each successive surgery has less chance of success,” however, “the synthetic cornea changed all that. The surgical procedure was straight forward and the result exceeded all of our expectations.”
The day after the operation, Prof. Bahar said that even she was “amazed”, “surprised” and “thrilled” at how well Furaniwas “able to read a vision chart and to recognize family members.” And of course Furani’s family had changed over the years but the absolute thrill was seeing for the first time the new members who he had spoken with and touched but now could see!
It has been emotionally tough for medical practitioners all over the world over the last year with COVID-19, so this was a thrill. “The moment we took off the bandages was an emotional and significant moment. Moments like these are the fulfillment of our calling as doctors,” said Prof. Bahar.
To which an exuberant Furani replied, “As much as you are happy, I am even happier. It’s my treasure to be able to see.”
So what is this artificial cornea that can now restore sight to the blind?
CorNeat co-founder and the inventor of the KPro, Dr. Gilad Litvin, told Channel 13 news that “The innovation here stems from the ability to take something totally synthetic that has no cells or tissue and implant it in the wall of the eye so that it essentially becomes part of the body.” Litvin who sat in on the operation, revealed to the Times of Israel the sensation of “Unveiling this first implanted eye” and “being in that room was surreal. Witnessing a fellow human being regain his sight the following day was electrifying and emotionally moving. There were a lot of tears in the room.”
It was only last July, the first in-human trials of the CorNeat synthetic cornea were approved at Beilinson. This is only the start of a procedure which will undoubtedly impact the lives of millions.
CorNeat Vision’s Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer and VP R&D, Almog Aley-Raz, noted that theCorNeat KPro’s first-in-human implantation is just the first step in a multi-national clinical trial, geared toward attaining CE Mark, FDA Clearance and China NMPA approval. “A total of 10 patients are approved for the trial at Rabin Medical Center in Israel with two additional sites planned to open this January in Canada and six others at different stages in the approval process in France, the US, and the Netherlands. Our first trial includes blind patients who are not suitable candidates for- or have failed one or more corneal transplantations. Given the exceptional visual performance of our device, the expected healing time and retention, and the fact that it cannot carry disease, we plan to initiate a second study later this year with broader indications to approve our artificial cornea as a first line treatment, displacing the use of donor tissue used in full thickness corneal transplantations.”
Now, when Haifa grandpa Jamal Furani says to someone “I’ll be seeing you” he sure means it!
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)