Home Cellular health Health News | Scientists develop thermogel that helps prevent retinal scarring

Health News | Scientists develop thermogel that helps prevent retinal scarring


Washington [US]Jul 4 (ANI): According to a new study, a group of scientists from Singapore have found that a biofunctional thermogel, a type of synthetic polymer, helps prevent retinal scarring caused by failed detachment repair surgery of the retina.

Research has found that proliferative vitreoretinopathy occurs when retinal scarring prevents the retina from healing and growing back into place. And it is said to account for more than 75% of failed retinal detachment surgeries and could lead to vision loss or blindness if left untreated.

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The results of the study have been published in the journal Nature.

Current treatment options for PVR are limited to surgical removal of these scar membranes with protected visual recovery.[1] This work highlights the potential of using synthetic polymers alone to modulate cellular behavior and, for the first time, provides a new thermogel-based therapy to prevent retinal scarring. The team behind the development is drawn from the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology (IMCB) and the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) of A*STAR, National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI).

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The research team demonstrated that a biofunctional thermogel alone is able to prevent retinal scarring in a preclinical model that mimics human disease. Using retinal cells, the team observed that the thermogel prevented the development of scar membranes by modulating cell behaviors such as proliferation and migration. Using genome-wide transcriptomic analysis to profile cellular gene expression, they revealed that the thermogel activated a protein called erythroid-related nuclear factor 2 (NRF2), to trigger a series of chemical reactions to prevent scarring.

“Our study offers insight into how synthetic polymers no longer simply function as inert drug carriers. It challenges the conventional belief that the use of a small molecule drug is always necessary to achieve an effect. Beyond ophthalmology, this unique bio-functionality of the thermogel can also be applied to other diseases such as orthopedics where intra-articular joint scarring could be an issue,” said Dr. Su Xinyi, Senior Principal Investigator and Division Director at A*STAR’s IMCB, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

“When we first developed this biofunctional thermogel at IMRE, we realized that it was a significant step forward in the development of next-generation biodegradable polymers. Its ability to mimic and replace vitreous given the biocompatibility of the material, makes it useful for many other biomedical applications,” said Prof. Loh Xian Jun, IMRE Executive Director of A*STAR.

The thermogel is currently commercialized by Vitreogel Innovations Inc, an A*STAR spin-off that focuses on the development of polymer-based therapies for ophthalmology indications. Vitreogel Innovations Inc is an ISO 13485 (Medical Device Quality Systems) accredited company that generates a clinical-grade version of the polymer for first-in-man clinical trials.

Building on this work, the team will continue to test the safety and efficacy of this polymer for repairing retinal detachment and preventing PVR using additional preclinical disease models. Through their work, the team aims to design the next generation of polymers with targeted chemical modifications to elicit specific cellular behaviors and to identify alternative applications of the thermogel beyond ophthalmology. (ANI)

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