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Australian researchers have developed a therapeutic contact lens that can help heal cornea injuries. When installed, it encourages repair of injuries on the eye’s surface, which are especially difficult to treat.

 

Researchers from the Queensland Eye Institute have developed a therapeutic contact lens that can act as a type of bandage, as reported by Futura Sciences. Made of donor eye cells, the lens fast-tracks the healing of cornea damage, which can be difficult to treat. The design is still in the research phase, however, and must undergo clinical testing for several years before being offered to patients.

 

Healing properties

 

These special devices are known as scleral lenses, which rest on the sclera (the white part of the eye) and create a space over the cornea, without touching it. “The donor cells are readily accessible from tissue that is usually discarded after routine corneal transplants,” said Professor Damien Harkin, from Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, based at the Queensland Eye Institute.

Aside from the donor cells, the lens uses amniotic membrane donated from human placentas, which is renowned for its healing and anti-inflammatory properties. “Based upon preliminary data we believe that the donor cells release a range of wound-healing factors that encourage repair of the eye’s surface,” added Professor Harkin.

 

Treatment delivery

 

The lens developed by the Australian team represents a technological breakthrough, following many decades of unsuccessful attempts. In 2013, researchers from Harvard University and the MIT successfully developed a contact lens capable of delivering therapeutic doses of Latanoprost continuously over a period of more than a month as a means of treating glaucoma, one of the main causes of incurable blindness.

Following conclusive tests conducted on cells in culture and in vivo on animals, the lens was the subject of a paper published in the science journal Biomaterials in January 2014. The device comprised a thin polymer film on the outside of its inner face, the idea being for it not to inhibit vision. Corrective versions for short- and long-sighted patients were also planned.

 

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