The first patient, funded by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), has received treatment with Chiesi’s stem-cell-based therapy Holoclar for limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD) caused by chemical eye burns.

The patient received treatment at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

LSCD is a rare eye disorder, which could result in chronic pain, photophobia, burning, inflammation, stromal scarring, corneal neovascularisation and even blindness.

Chiesi’s Holoclar is a form of advanced therapy called a tissue-engineered product, made of cells obtained from the patient’s healthy limbus during a biopsy.

The extracted cells are sent to the manufacturing facility at Holostem Terapie Avanzate in Italy to be prepared and grown in a culture to generate a layer of healthy tissue.

After a minimum of 50 days, the healthy tissue layer is transported back to the treating hospital for implantation into the damaged eye to repair the damaged corneal surface.

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK recommended the drug in 2017 for the treatment of adults with moderate-to-severe LSCD after eye burns.

However, the recommendation covers treatment of one eye and patients who have already received a conjunctival limbal autograft.

Chiesi UK managing director Tom Delahoyde said: “We are delighted that the first patient outside of a clinical trial has received this innovative and breakthrough medicine.

“This first NHS treatment marks a major milestone for those people with LSCD due to physical or chemical burns and we look forward to many more eligible patients benefiting from such a ground-breaking therapy.”