Page 12 - envision01-2021
P. 12

Cover Story

                           R E SE AR CH

   / Cornea surgeon-scientist, Dr. Marie-Claude Robert, left, with trainees doing bursting pressure measurements
         to ensure liquid cornea formulations patching perforations will be able to seal tissues reliably.  /
                                        / Dr. May Griffith, left, and postdoctoral fellow, Kamal Malhotra using Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) to evaluate thermal stability of biomaterials. /
                                         “This is good news for the many patients  rejection associated with xenogeneic
                                         who cannot undergo this operation due  materials.”
                                         to a severe worldwide shortage of donor
                                         corneas,” said Dr. Griffith. “Until now,   As well, in situ gelation potentially allows
                                         patients on the waiting list have had  for clinical application in outpatient clinics
                                         their perforated corneas sealed with a   instead of operating theaters, maximizing
                                         medical-grade super glue, but this is only  practicality and minimizing healthcare
                                         a short-term solution because it is often   costs.
                                         poorly tolerated in the eye, making
                                         transplantation necessary.”         Dr.  Griffith  hopes  that  eventually,  the
                                                                             treatment can be done on an out-patient
                                         In North America, a corneal transplant  basis.
                                         is most often required because of corneal
                                         thinning due to old age; other causes    “Researchers are working with surgeons
                                                                             in the U.S. and Montreal to determine
                                         include  infection and scarring  from
         “   This is good news for       keratoconus. In  the  developing  world,   whether it could be made available in
                                                                             parts of the world, such as refugee camps,
                                         they are often necessitated by industrial
                                                                             where there are no eye banks. We want it
                                         accidents, chemical burns and mechanical
           the many patients who
                                                                             to be stable enough and easy enough to
             cannot undergo this         injuries.                           use that a healthcare professional (not an
                                         Transplantation with donor corneas is the  ophthalmologist) at a camp can apply it.”
              operation due to a         standard for treating corneal blindness, but
                severe worldwide         a severe worldwide shortage has left 12.7  Like many research projects world-wide,
                                         million people on waiting lists, with only   the work on LiQD Cornea has been
               shortage of donor         1 in 70 patients receiving surgery.   delayed by the pandemic.
                                      “  pandemic but it has worsened as medical   species but have to redo them at a
                         corneas         The shortage  pre-dated  the COVID-19   “We have proof of concept in three animal
                                         resources were diverted to helping patients
                                                                             third-party lab to get Health Canada
                                         affected by the virus. 
                                                                             approval. And it will take a lot to get this
                                         A synthetic, biocompatible and adhesive   into clinical trials because there so many
                                         liquid hydrogel, LiQD Cornea is applied   pieces involved. One big question is, who
                                         in  liquid  form,  but quickly  adheres  and  will fund it?”
          / Post-doctoral fellow, Bijay Poudel, Kamal Malhotra and Elle Edin doing a cursory look at a
                             transparent hydrogel sample. /  gels within the corneal tissue. It promotes
                                         tissue regeneration, thus treating corneal    Fortunately, private companies, as well
                                         perforations without the need for    as hospitals, universities and U.S. and
                                         transplantation.                    Canadian grant programs are all involved.
                                         “Gelation occurs spontaneously at body   Dr. Griffith says it will take at least two to
                                         temperature within five minutes,” says Dr.   three years for LiQD Cornea to become
                                         Griffith. “Light exposure is not required,   available because of the ongoing pandemic.
                                         which  is advantageous  because patients   “It will take several years for clinical trials
                                         with corneal inflammation are typically   to take place. We have to do a feasibility
                                         photophobic. The self-assembling, fully   study and then a pivotal study and then it
                                         defined, synthetic collagen analog is much  goes to market. We are currently talking
                                         less costly than human recombinant   to partners who might be interested in
                                         collagen and reduces the risk of immune  commercialization.”        n

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