An inter-disciplinary multi-institutional project wins the SreePVF grant in Biomedical sciences this year for their project “Biomimetic hydrogel for the treatment of blinding corneal diseases”. The team comprises basic science researchers to applied biomaterial experts to clinician scientists drawn from IIT, LVPEI and CCMB, all from Hyderabad. As part of this Rs 3 cr grant, they propose to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a novel and proprietary biomimetic hydrogel (patent pending) along with unique mesenchymal stem cells derived from the human eye for the treatment of corneal wounds.
The Committee that evaluated the project said “The beauty of this project is, even while adopting cutting-edge technology, it promises a simpler alternative to corneal transplantation. The use of biological material derived from discarded human cornea as injectable hydrogel is a novel, innovative, cost-effective and easily implementable solution to a problem that affects millions world-wide. This project provides hope to not only all patients with corneal blindness, it also specifically targets a large proportion of patients who otherwise carry poor prognosis for corneal transplantation. The team has already shown that the technology works in animal models and the grant provides them with an opportunity to carry out the much needed bed-side translation.”
Principal Investigators: Dr Falguni Pati, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad
Dr Sayan Basu, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad
Dr Vivek Singh, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad
Dr B Kiran Kumar, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad
Title: Biomimetic hydrogel for the treatment of blinding corneal diseases
Summary: Loss of corneal clarity or transparency is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment affecting millions worldwide. Corneal opacification is not medically reversible and corneal transplantation is the current standard of care for those with severe disease and vision loss. However, corneal transplantation has its limitations with respect to long-term graft survival, prolonged use of topical or oral immunosuppressive medications and life-long clinical follow-up. There is also, unfortunately, a huge gap between the demand and supply of donor corneal tissue worldwide, which is further complicated by the lack of adequate eye-banking networks, especially in the developing world. With advancements in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, many possible alternative approaches to corneal transplantation have emerged in the recent past. These include biomimetic hydrogels, stem cells and gene/molecular therapy. Of these, biomimetic hydrogels have shown the greatest promise.
We have developed a unique biomimetic corneal hydrogel (from discarded human corneas that do not meet optical standards for clinical transplantation) which can be used to treat corneal scarring and keratoconus, major causes of corneal blindness in developing countries like India. This study proposes the clinical grade manufacturing and pre-clinical validation for regulatory approval, and phase 0/1 clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of this novel and proprietary material embedded with stem cells derived from the human eye.