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Eye filler therapy shows promise with corneal blindness

Scientists have developed an injectable biosynthetic ‘glue filler’ that repairs corneal perforations, potentially removing the need for corneal donations and transplants.

The Tej Kohli Foundation, which operates in India and the UK, has been trialling a non-surgical treatment for corneal blindness with a gel-like therapy that sets at body temperature and can be modified to act as a tissue glue.

Similar to a tooth cavity, the ‘filler’ is applied after the pathological tissue is removed. It could be administered from a syringe by an ophthalmologist in a 30-minute procedure without an operating theatre.

The researchers believe a reliance on the regeneration of the patients’ own corneal tissue will reduce the likelihood of rejection when compared to grafting, eliminating the long term need for expensive immunosuppressant drugs. Laboratory studies on 100% thickness corneal wounds have already shown promise for the biosynthetic, with pre-clinical studies now under way.

“Blindness as a consequence of corneal perforation is common, particularly in developing countries where there is often no access to corneal transplantation,” Dr Bruce Allan, consultant eye surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, told Business Wire.

“Novel glue fillers that have the potential to seal the cornea and promote natural tissue regeneration do not require expensive infrastructure and can be used anywhere. We are very excited to be working with the Tej Kohli Foundation on this.”

According to the researchers, the treatment could satisfy major shortcomings in Indian eyecare, which requires 100,000 donor corneas annually but only manages to procure 17,000 eyes.

This shortage of donors, combined with the prohibitive $4,000 cost of invasive corneal transplant surgery and medication that prevent grafts rejection, is problematic for many poor communities where curable blindness often goes untreated.

The Tej Kohli Foundation believes viable solutions for poorer communities should cost less than $500.

The biosynthetic technology is a collaboration between ophthalmology departments in Montreal, Canada, Hyderabad in India, and London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.

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