NICE to make decision on treatment for eye burns due to rise in acid attacks

08 August 17

written by:

Yewande Omoniyi

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The rise of acid attacks in London have seen an increase in eye burns which damage important limbal stem cells in the eye. Limbal stem cells live on the surface of the cornea, and their job is to constantly renew and replace cells on the cornea surface. Unfortunately, injury to the limbal stem cells can lead to a deficiency called limbal stem deficiency (LSCD). The cornea will then try and repair itself using different eye cells which can lead to impaired vision. 

In August NICE are making a decision whether to allow a stem cell treatment called Holoclar to be available on the NHS – the treatment is able to restore a damaged corneal surface. However, it is most successful when one eye is still healthy as the cells are transplanted from the healthy eye to the damaged eye. This treatment works for seven in ten patients.

The consultant ophthalmic surgeon Alex Shortt, is leading this vital research and has previously received an award by Fight for Sight for his work on limbal stem cell transplantation at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, as part of his PhD training and also received a small grant award for his own research project on limbal epithelial stem cells.

There are no specific treatments for chemical ocular burns that cause LSCD so Holoclar could be the first specific treatment on the NHS. 



NICE have decided that Holoclar will be made available for routine use on the NHS in England within three months and Wales within two months of today (16 August 2017).

Final recommendations have been made about the use of Holoclar, which states it can only be used to treat one eye in people who have already had a conjunctival limbal autograft or it can be used if there is not enough tissue for the autograft.

The use of Holoclar for treatment in both eyes is only recommended in moderate to severe cases in the context of research and when there is not enough tissue for a conjunctival limbal autograft.

For more information from NICE, click here.