Contact lenses as a dressing for the eyes: this is the discovery to cure eye lesions. Developed by Australian researchers, this lens has cells from eye tissues of a donor that can treat the surface of the eyes of the one who uses it.
Cells from a donor and the human placenta
Researchers at the Queensland Eye Institute use cells called mesenchymal stromal cells (L-MSC) from a third party. These cells are deposited on the surface of the eye through a special type of contact lens called the scleral lens. In terms of donor cell harvesting, Professor and author of the study, Damien Harkin, states that these are "easily accessible from tissues typically discarded after systematic corneal transplants."
The lens will also be composed of amniotic membrane taken directly from the human placenta. This helps fight against inflammation and promote healing. "Based on preliminary data, we believe that donor cells release a range of wound healing factors that promote repair of the surface of the eye," says Damien Harkin.
Lenses with therapeutic virtues
This therapeutic lens will, researchers hope, treat patients suffering from "chronic conditions such as corneal ulcers and persistent surface defects that have not responded to conventional therapies," said Damien Harkin. In addition, the new treatment may be able to treat acute ocular lesions that result from exposure to caustic chemicals, hot liquids, or excessive heat.
The problem, for the moment, lies in the amniotic membrane which has variable properties both in and between the donor tissue samples. This membrane is currently imported from New Zealand, which delays treatment and increases its cost. "We propose that a bank of well-characterized and tested L-MSC donor cells would be a more reliable and cost-effective source of growth factors to repair the eye quickly," says Harkin.
A discovery to confirm clinically
For the moment, this lens is not commercialized. Clinical trials must be carried out to confirm its therapeutic virtues and to make it available to patients. Nevertheless, Professor Damien Harkin is confident and hopes that this treatment will be available to patients in the coming years.
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