"Laboratory tests have shown that the membranes will support cell growth, so the next stage is to trial this in patients in India, working with our colleagues in the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad," says Professor Sheila MacNeil. "One advantage of our design is that we have made the disc from materials already in use as biodegradable sutures in the eye so we know they won't cause a problem in the body. This means that, subject to the necessary safety studies and approval from Indian Regulatory Authorities, we should be able to move to early stage clinical trials fairly quickly."
Treating corneal blindness is a particularly pressing problem in the developing world, where there are high instances of chemical or accidental damage to the eye but complex treatments such as transplants or amniotic membrane grafts are not available to a large part of the population.
The technique has relevance in more developed countries such as the UK and US as well, according to Dr Frederick Claeyssens. "The current treatments for corneal blindness use donor tissue to deliver the cultured cells which means that you need a tissue bank. But not everyone has access to banked tissues and it is impossible to completely eliminate all risks of disease transmission with living human tissue," he says. "By using a synthetic material, it will eliminate some of the risk to patients and be readily available for all surgeons. We also believe that the overall treatment using these discs will not only be better than current treatments, it will be cheaper as well."
|Contact: Abigail Chard|
University of Sheffield