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Research

Cystic fibrosis treatment helps treat dry eye

31/05/2019
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Clinical trials of a novel enzyme-based therapy for severe dry eye disease (DED), which is already approved in the US to treat cystic fibrosis, have shown positive results.

The Phase I/II clinical trials for the DNase biosynthetic enzyme eye drops resulted in participants reporting relief from the symptoms of DED. The drug works by breaking up the nucleic acid-based material on the eye’s surface.

In the randomised, placebo-controlled trial, the investigators enrolled 47 participants with severe DED. Around half of the participants were diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome and 17% had graft-versus-host disease – both of which are linked to significant deficits in tear production. Forty-one participants completed the trial.

The test participants were provided with eye drops containing either DNase or a placebo formulation, and instructed to administer one drop on each eye four times per day for a period of eight weeks.



"Participants in the trial who used the drops with DNase reported less eye discomfort and their corneas were healthier"
Dr Sandeep Jain, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Illinois

“Participants in the trial who used the drops with DNase reported less eye discomfort and their corneas were healthier,” Dr Sandeep Jain, principal investigator and professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, said.

The DNase group had a statistically significant and clinically meaningful reduction in corneal damage at eight weeks when compared to the placebo group.

In a previous study, Jain and colleagues discovered that strands of DNA form webs on the surface of eyes affected by severe DED, which causes an inflammatory response.

“In dry eye disease, several things happen,” Jain explained. “There is an increase in the number of white blood cells called neutrophils that gather on the surface of the eye. Neutrophils release DNA which forms webs on the cornea called neutrophil extracellular traps, which cause inflammation of the ocular surface and attract additional neutrophils in a vicious cycle,” Jain said.

The results, suggest that DNase may be safe for use in treating DED, and the team is looking forward for larger randomised trials.

Currently, DNase is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in treating cystic fibrosis, and its use for DED that does not respond to other medications is still considered experimental.

“There are currently only two approved drugs to treat dry eye, and they don’t work for everyone, especially those with severe disease, so having a new drug that can treat the disease is very important,” Jain added.

The results were published in the journal Translational Vision Science and Technology.

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