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New Adhesive Gel Able to Repair Corneal Injuries

A new biomaterial adhesive gel developed at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School could reduce the need for surgery to repair injuries to the cornea.

The technology, known as GelCORE (gel for corneal regeneration) was detailed in the March issue of Science Advances under the title of “Sutureless repair of corneal injuries using naturally derived bioadhesive hydrogels.”

There are 1.5 million new cases of corneal blindness worldwide each year, with only 5% of these being treated with corneal transplant surgery, according to the authors.

The standard treatment for corneal injuries, cyanoacrylate glue, has the drawbacks of poor biocompatibility, low transparency, and doesn’t easily integrate with corneal tissue.  

Reza Dana, Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and corresponding author on the study, said they aimed to make a material that was strongly adhesive that didn’t only close the wound but also let the cornea heal.

“We wanted this material to allow the cells of the cornea to mesh with the adhesive and to regenerate over time to mimic something as close to the native cornea as possible,” he said.

GelCORE is a clear, viscous material composed of modified gelatin and photo-initiators, which can be applied to the cornea with a dropper or a syringe. After exposure to blue light for around four minutes the material hardens and adheres to the cornea around the defect.

The researchers used a blue light instead of a photo-initiator that requires ultraviolet light because UV can cause photochemical toxicity or DNA damage in the cornea.

The resulting material is hard and transparent but still allows corneal cells to grow into the material and allow for natural regeneration.

“Our hope is that this biomaterial could fill in a major gap in technology available to treat corneal injuries,” Dana said.

Read the complete paper at https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/3/eaav1281

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