Moorfields helps develop alternative to corneal transplantation

Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology have helped to develop an alternative way to treat a perforated or thinning cornea. The technique uses a gel that can repair holes in the cornea, in a similar way to a dental filling, without the need for a corneal transplant.

The cornea is the clear layer at the front of the eye which allows light in. Perforation or thinning of the cornea, for example following an injury or infection, can block or scatter light entering the eye, affecting all aspects of vision. Transplantation with a donor cornea is the current standard treatment for corneal blindness, but a severe worldwide shortage of cornea donors means that alternative treatments are necessary.

There are many advantages to this new treatment. The use of synthetic collagen rather than human collagen is less costly and it reduces the risk of immune rejection. It would take place in an outpatient clinic instead of an operating theatre, which further reduces costs and is more practical for both the hospital and the patient. The method also doesn’t require light exposure to help the gel to set, which is particularly advantageous because patients with corneal inflammation are typically very sensitive to light.

Moorfields are collaborating with Dr May Griffith and her lab at Université de Montréal to further develop the treatment and work towards clinical trials taking place at Moorfields in the near future.

Bruce Allan, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of ophthalmology, said:

“We’re delighted with the progress of our collaborative work on new corneal regenerative materials to treat corneal perforations and defects without the need for a transplant. We are looking forward to this work progressing to clinical trials and believe that it has the potential to transform corneal care in the future.” 

Read the article in Science Advances.

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