Nurses can be trained to use a unique wound dressing made from amniotic membrane that can help save the sight of patients rushed to hospital with serious eye injuries, according to academics.
They claim the dressing – known as Omnigen – has the potential to revolutionise treatment for emergency cases of ophthalmic wounds including abrasions, burns and more serious perforations.
“Imagine a world where treating a serious eye injury could be as easy as applying a contact lens”
It was originally developed by researchers in the University of Nottingham, which led to the formation of a spin-out company NuVision Biotherapies.
NuVision has now been granted a licence by the Human Tissue Authority to distribute Omnigen, with patients at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust’s clinics among the first to try it.
Amnion – the innermost layer of membrane from the amniotic sac collected from caesarean deliveries – has been developed for a number of medical applications over the last two decades.
The tissue is rich in collagen and growth factors that can promote wound healing. It also has natural antibacterial properties, immediately reduces pain on contact and can be used with all blood types.
However, previously amnion had to be stored by cryogenically freezing, which can damage the tissue and reduce its effectiveness. It also required heavily regulated cold chain storage and costly logistics.
In addition, it could only be ordered and distributed on a named patient basis, and used within 48 hours on reaching its destination.
Such difficulties have prevented amnion from being used as an emergency therapy for the routine treatment of trauma.
Nottingham University have now developed a standardised new approach to processing the membrane and preserving its therapeutic properties in a new easy-to-store dry format.
When applied, the natural moisture in the eye works to rehydrate the patch and immediately delivers a 70% reduction in pain for the patient without the need for extra painkillers.
The way the amnion is treated also retains some antibacterial features, which results in extra infection-fighting properties and speeds the healing process.
It can be applied on a structure converting it into a type of contact lens which can be removed and reapplied as necessary or can remain in the eye as a type of scaffold on to which eye cells can grow as the organ heals, said the university.
For the first time, hospitals can order specially vacuum-sealed packs containing multiple bandages to be stored with regular hospital supplies at room temperature and used immediately in the event of emergency cases arriving.
Nurses can also be trained to apply Omnigen, offering even more flexibility to the NHS and benefit for patients, said the university.
Amniotic bandage could save sight in trauma patients
Dr Andrew Hopkinson, principal research fellow at the university and founder of NuVision Biotherapies, said: “Imagine a world where treating a serious eye injury could be as easy as applying a contact lens.
“Omnigen will allow hospital emergency departments to treat patients quickly and give them the best chance of recovery in a way which has never before been available to them,” he said.
The product will receive its official launch at an event in Nottingham on Thursday, when ophthalmic specialists from both human and veterinary medicine will gather to hear about the technology.
NuVision has also received funding from the Ministry of Defence, which was interested in the potential of Omnigen for treating injuries on the battlefield.