For a long time, scientists have been searching for ways to heal wounds faster. Recently, this search took an exciting turn when ophthalmologists tested a new drug and found it can heal the front of the eye in as little as two days after surgery.
This compound could potentially help millions of patients who undergo corneal transplants and refractive surgeries like LASIK. The initial results suggest these patients would heal faster with less discomfort and fewer complications, such as infection.
"Faster healing is clinically important because that helps reduce the risk of complications after surgery," said Koray Gumus, M.D., a visiting post-doctoral fellow at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and associate professor of ophthalmology at Erciyes University School of Medicine in Turkey. Dr. Gumus presented his research on the medication at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's annual meeting, AAO 2015, in November.
The drug, Cacicol, was originally developed to heal chronic skin wounds common in patients with diabetes. Because skin and the cornea on the front of the eye are both made of collagen, scientists decided to test the drug to see if it could heal wounds in the eye.
In this particular study, the regenerative medicine was tested on patients who underwent surgery for keratoconus, a rare condition causing the cornea at the front of the eye to bulge and distort vision. Eye physicians and surgeons restore sight to patients with keratoconus through a procedure known as corneal cross-linking.
The researchers involved in the study tracked the recovery of 60 keratoconus patients for three days after corneal cross-linking surgery. The physicians randomly treated 30 eyes with drops containing the drug.
On day two, 83 percent of eyes treated with the drug had healed significantly, compared to 13 percent of eyes that went untreated. Patients also reported less pain, stinging, tearing and up and light sensitivity in the eyes that received the medication.
Researchers say they are exploring if the treatment will work for other eye conditions such as corneal ulcers – open sores on the front of the eye that can easily become infected.