Chinese researchers believe that they have found a way to restore sight using pig eyeballs. In an interview with CBS, the CEO of the research facility leading the possible breakthrough said that so far, 400 cornea transplants have been performed in the country with a 95% success rate.

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Last week, Americans marked National Donor Day, the purpose of which is to raise awareness of the lifesaving benefits of organ donations. In Israel, just like in the US and other countries around the world, there is a serious organ donor shortage. However, Chinese researchers claim to have found an interesting way to restore sight without having to use human organs as they only need pig eyeballs.

When the CBS correspondent felt uncomfortable with a jar of pig eyeballs “staring” at her, the CEO of China Regenerative Medicine International told her: “Well you don’t have to look at it!” Zheng Kang Shao told her that his company is experimenting with making pig corneas suitable for humans in order to restore sight.


Illustration photo credit: Jane White/123rf/Channel 2 News

Pigs were not the researchers’ first choice. “We do try many, you know, animals,” explained Shao. “Finally we conclude, you know, the pig’s cornea is very similar to the human.” According to Chinese traditions, human bodies should be left intact, which means that organ donations are very rare in the country. However, China is home to four million people with corneal diseases and they need options.

So far, Chinese doctors have performed 400 cornea transplants with a 95% success rate. “We don’t usually say it’s from a pig,” Shao explained. “We say it’s an engineered product. If we said that, some would refuse it, though others probably wouldn’t care as long as they’re cured.”