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Eye Drops Reverse Infected Eye Scarring

Eyes looking at laptop

(Tookapic, Pexels)

24 Dec. 2018. Eye drops containing a therapeutic protein and applied as a gel, are shown in lab mice to remove scar tissue from the surface of infected or damaged corneas. A team from University of Birmingham in the U.K. and University of California in Irvine describe their research in Friday’s issue of the journal NPJ Regenerative Medicine.

Materials scientists and medical researchers from the Birmingham labs of chemical engineering professor Liam Grover and ophthalmology professor Ann Logan are seeking better treatments for scarring and inflammation of the cornea. Scar tissue on the cornea results from trauma to the eye and infections, often in extended-wear contact lenses not worn as prescribed. Infections in the cornea can be caused by a number of microbes, but Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria are among the most frequently cited. World Health Organization says corneal impairments are the fourth leading cause of blindness in the world, with an estimated 1.5 to 2 million cases each year.

The team led by medical researcher and materials scientist Lisa Hill developed a treatment for cornea scarring with decorin, a natural protein with the ability to reverse fibrosis and inflammation from scars. However, the treatments need a way of remaining in the eye for extended periods for decorin to work. Their answer is a gel formulation of synthesized decorin, which remains on the eye’s surface. But the gel then liquefies with blinking, which breaks down the loose matrix of the gel.

Hill and colleagues, including associates at University of California in Irvine where she previously served as a visiting scholar, tested their gel-liquid decorin eye drops in lab mice induced with corneal infections called Pseudomonas keratitis. The results show the treatments reduced scarring in the corneas within 16 days. Not only did the treatments reduce scar tissue, they also encouraged reconstitution of healthy cornea cells.

“The anti-scarring eye drop has the potential to vastly improve outcomes for patients with eye infection and trauma,” says Hill in a university statement. “It could also help save many people’s sight, particularly in the developing world where surgical interventions such as corneal transplants are not available.”

University of Birmingham is securing a patent on the technology. Hill’s web page says human clinical trials of decorin fluid gels could begin next year.

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