Scientists at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom have developed a new eye drop that rapidly reduces sight-threatening scarring to the surface of the eye.

The surface of the eye (the cornea) is usually transparent, but scars resulting from eye infection or trauma make it opaque causing blurred vision or in extreme cases complete blindness.

In pre-clinical research on an eye infection commonly associated with poor contact lens hygiene, the scientists were able to show that within a few days the eye drop speeded healing, reduced scarring and improved corneal transparency compared to the current standard of care for the infection.

The current standard of care for the eye infection are eye drops containing antibiotics and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, followed by intensive lubrication to prevent further damage to the eye during blinking. These treatments effectively sterilize the eye, although some patients are left with visual ‘hazing’ due to scars on the cornea.

The only option to correct this is costly and cumbersome surgical interventions, such as corneal transplants, which are fraught with risks of failure or rejection.

The new eye drops consist of a fluid gel loaded with a natural wound-healing protein called Decorin that is retained on the surface of the eye and forms a ‘therapeutic bandage’ that promotes scarless healing.

The fluid gel is a novel material that transitions between a solid and liquid state, allowing it to contour itself to the shape of the eye and remain there until it is gradually removed by blinking. The new eye drop has the potential to vastly improve outcomes for patients with eye infection and trauma. It could also help save many people’s sight, particularly in the developing world where surgical interventions such as corneal transplants are not available.

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