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Adhesive gel might help the eye heal itself

An adhesive gel that has the ability to improve healing of the cornea has been developed by engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Samueli School of Engineering.

The gel is designed to be used following an injury, and has the potential to reduce the need for surgical repairs and corneal transplants.

The biomaterial, called GelCORE, is made up of a viscuous, clear compound which can be applied using a syringe or dropper. It is then subjected to short bursts of visible blue light to harden it, allowing it to achieve a density and transparency similar to the cornea.

“This new biomaterial fills a major unmet need for corneal injury treatments,” Dr Nasim Annabi, UCLA assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, said.

“The biggest advantage is that it’s very similar to the corneal tissue itself. It can adhere to the cornea to seal defects, and becomes completely integrated with the surrounding tissue.”

After it is applied, corneal cells gradually grow into GelCORE’s matrix-like structure and promote self-healing of the the cornea. It also has potential as a suture-free alternative for the rapid sealing of corneal wounds, while also supporting long-term healing.

Injuries and infections of the cornea are some of the most common causes of visual impairments, with corneal transplants often a necessary procedure. However, this presents a challenge since there are very few cornea tissue donors, alloingside the possible rejection of the transpalented tissue.

Other options include adhesives, however thse typicially only act as a glue, do not promote healing, or do not adhere particualry well to the wet surface of the eye.

Such limitations, according to the researchers, are addressed by GelCORE. The team is also currently testing it as a platform to deliver treatment agents to treat other eye diseases.

Human clinical trials are scheduled for next year after successful testing results were achieved in rabbits.

The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

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