Conway welcomes breakthrough in corneal transplants

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fine Gael Senator for Clare and the Party's Seanad Spokesperson on Justice, Disability and Equality, Martin Conway, has today (Friday) welcomed the announcement by researchers at the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI ) at NUI Galway, that they have developed a new system which could reduce the rejection rate of corneal transplant operations to as low as 10%.

Corneal eye disease is the fourth most common cause of blindness, affecting an estimated 10 million people worldwide. Although 100,000 people undergo corneal transplants each year, the procedure suffers from a high rejection rate of 30%.

This new approach, which uses stem cells, could lead to more patients holding onto their sight, if the technique can be replicated in humans.

In Ireland five people go blind every week and more than 220,000 people in Ireland are blind or vision impaired. With our ageing population this number is expected to increase by a fifth by 2020.

As someone who has had a severe vision impairment since I was a child, I fully understand how sight problems can profoundly affect one’s life. The significant advances in medicine mean that we have a real chance to reduce blindness and vision impairment. I believe there is reason to be hopeful in the years ahead for over 220,000 people living in Ireland who are blind or vision impaired.

Following a unanimously supported Private Members Motion on eye care which I tabled in the Seanad in July, I am hopeful that the Government will implement a national vision strategy which could lead to the prevention of four out of every five cases of blindness in this country.