Over the last ten years, the percentage of the U.S. population suffering from Dry Eye Disease (DED) has grown to about half of the population. For a better treatment approach, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), Hironmoy Das Ph.D., a member of Panhandle Eye Group in Amarillo, Texas, Sloan W. Rush M.D., and, a member of the Oklahoma Blood Institute, Jennifer Chain, innovated a solution with corneal epithelial stem cells.
What has been done?
Many relieving and treatment methods for dry eyes have been present for decades, although they barely completely heal the dryness. Some include; topical antibiotics, eye lubricants, topical corticosteroids, sclera contact lenses, and invasive surgery (in some cases) that were not helping these patients. In the words of Das, “in most cases, these conditions are not sun-friendly, making patients choose a nocturnal lifestyle” However, the use of stem cells highlights various possibilities, as it regenerates to produce more cells and possess inflammatory abilities.
What is being done?
The first stage of this research (laboratory investigation) was powered by the Oklahoma Blood Institute. As a Good Manufacturing Practice facility, it is licensed to perform intense medical experiments like isolating and expanding human cells such as stem cells, before they’re transplanted into humans. The team made use of expanded corneal stem cells, that are gotten from the limbus (intersection of cornea and conjunctiva) of eye donors.
The clinical trial started with full anticipation as it was the first of its kind, to get to this stage. Led by Sloan W. Rush, seventeen patients with severe DED partook in the clinical trials. These participants were to have a history of at least 6 different conventional eye therapies specifically for DED treatment. Every patient applied a four-times daily dosage for twelve weeks. The cells were given as eyedrops and not injected.
The results from the clinical trials were judged via the Standardized Patient Evaluation of Eye Dryness (SPEED™) questionnaire, the Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI©) score, and a visual analog score. A Dry eye management scale from the University of North Carolina was used to obtain the visual analog scores. The results were collected at different intervals within the twelve weeks. Over the stipulated time, SPEED improved by 23% i.e 4.7 points; OSDI improved by an average of 17.1% I.e 10.9 points; visual analog scores improved by 14% I.e, 1.1 points. There was no report of adverse reactions. More so, the patients were asked to continue with the stem cells, even after the trials.
This technique seems to be another breakthrough of a rising medical trend. The adoption of stem cells in manufacturing drugs for various ailments in different parts of the body is not news. Das made a strong emphasis on other drugs not being regenerative and having no solution for inflammation, which is often the source of eye pain and dryness. There are different marketing approaches that are under analysis, to bring these eye drops into the American and European markets.
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