A team led by researchers from Mass Eye and Ear, a member of Mass General Brigham, reports the results of a phase I trial of a revolutionary stem cell treatment called cultivated autologous limbal epithelial cell transplantation (CALEC), which was found to be safe and well-tolerated over the short term in four patients with significant chemical burns in one eye. According to the study published August 18 in Science Advances, the patients who were followed for 12 months experienced restored cornea surfaces — two were able to undergo a corneal transplant and two reported significant improvements in vision without additional treatment.
While the phase I study was designed to determine preliminary safety and feasibility before advancing to a second phase of the trial, the researchers consider the early findings promising.
“Our early results suggest that CALEC might offer hope to patients who had been left with untreatable vision loss and pain associated with major cornea injuries,” said principal investigator and lead study author Ula Jurkunas, MD, associate director of the Cornea Service at Mass Eye and Ear and an associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “Cornea specialists have been hindered by a lack of treatment options with a high safety profile to help our patients with chemical burns and injuries that render them unable to get an artificial cornea transplant. We are hopeful with further study, CALEC can one day fill this crucially needed treatment gap.”