A new method for reducing corneal scarring

Professor Liam Grover has shared details of a pioneering therapy for treating microbial keratitis


Professor Liam Grover (pictured) highlighted the potential of decorin as a treatment for microbial keratitis in a presentation at Therapeutics London (22–23 September, London).

He explained to delegates that when the surface of the eye is compromised, a protein called transforming growth factor (TGF) beta causes fibroblasts within the cornea to differentiate into myofibroblasts.

These cells have the capacity to produce collagen at a faster rate and rapidly close the wound. However, this process can result in a clouded cornea.

There are lots of molecules within the body that can dampen the inflammatory response after an injury or infection. One molecule that we are particularly interested in is decorin,” Professor Grover told delegates.

He shared that decorin “mops up” TGF beta and reduces the number of fibroblasts within the cornea that differentiate into myofibroblasts.

“That will reduce the rate at which collagen is deposited and allow for an orderly deposition across the eye’s surface,” Professor Grover said.

The University of Birmingham academic observed that there are challenges associated with using decorin as an eye drop.

The molecule is costly and difficult to deliver to the eye’s surface, Professor Grover shared.

“If you are blinking a lot of the therapeutic away and it makes the therapy financially unviable,” he added.

Professor Grover’s research group is adding polymers to eye drop solution to get around this conundrum.

“The polymers start tangling with each other which creates a viscous solution that is retained on the surface of the eye for much longer,” he explained.

Early experiments in pig and rodent eyes have produced promising results using the decorin gel following corneal damage.

Over the coming year, researchers will begin a trial testing the use of the eye drops to treat microbial keratitis.

“There’s likely to be a huge market. There’s 28 million people worldwide who have gone blind as a result of corneal abrasion,” Professor Grover said.

Professor Liam Grover, from the University of Birmingham, on a new approach to treating microbial keratitis