The surface of the eye, known as the cornea, is usually transparent. But an eye infection or trauma can cause scarring on the surface, causing blurred vision or complete blindness. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an eye infection commonly associated with poor contact lens hygiene, is currently treated with drops that contain antibiotics and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
These are followed by intensive lubrication to prevent further damage to the eye during blinking.
The treatments effectively sterilise the eye, although some patients are left with visual “hazing” due to scars on the cornea.
To correct this, costly and cumbersome surgical interventions are required, such as corneal transplants, which are fraught with risks of failure or rejection.
But the “miracle” gel drops – developed by Birmingham University – rapidly reduce sight-threatening scarring to the surface of the eye within days.
The eye drop consists of a fluid gel loaded with a natural wound-healing protein called decorin.
Professor Ann Logan, of the university’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, said: “This innovative fluid gel in the eye drop is designed to retain the decorin on the surface of the eye, and form a ‘therapeutic bandage’ that promotes scarless healing.”
Professor Liam Grover from the School of Chemical Engineering explained: “The fluid gel is a novel material that can transition between a solid and liquid state.
“This means it contours itself to the surface of the eye, is retained there, and is slowly removed by blinking.”
The fluid gel has been patented by University of Birmingham Enterprise.
Dr Lisa Hill, from the university’s Institute of Clinical Sciences, added: “The anti-scarring eye drop could also help save many people’s sight, particularly in the developing world where surgical interventions such as corneal transplants are not available.”
The study was published in the journal Regenerative Medicine.