Researchers in the US have published a major breakthrough in understanding how to heal a cornea infected with microbial keratitis.
Principal investigator Dr Elizabeth Berger has led a team at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan, to understand how a molecule called thymosin beta-4 (Tβ4) promotes corneal healing from bacteria associated with contact lens infections.
“Our lab is working toward developing thymosin beta-4 (Tβ4) as a therapy to be used with antibiotics to further heal the eye after corneal infection,” Berger, associate professor of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences, said.
“To better understand how Tβ4 works, the current study looks at a key inflammatory cell, the macrophage, that is involved in the cornea’s response to infection. In this study, we show how Tβ4 regulates macrophage infiltration, activation and function to help restore corneal structure and function after infection.”
The study’s findings, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, represent a significant step in developing Tβ4 for use in the clinical setting.
“This molecule is not just a wound-healing molecule, it influences key inflammatory cells to enhance inflammatory resolution. Further, this work highlights the off-target influence of antibiotics on the host response that extend beyond well-known bactericidal effects,” Berger said.
“Adjunct Tβ4 treatment offers a more efficacious option for treating bacterial keratitis without the risks associated with steroids.”
The project sets the stage for future work regarding Tβ4, as well as the widely-used antibiotic ciprofloxacin. The team is now planning to submit a clinical trial for Tβ4 in the treatment of bacterial keratitis.
The novel corneal wound-healing therapy is awaiting review by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The study can be accessed here.