Effect of Topical Recombinant Human Nerve Growth Factor on Corneal Epithelial Regeneration in Refractory Epithelial Keratopathy

Xi Dai, Ugur Tunc, Xi Zhu, Sezen Karakus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To report the effect of topical application of recombinant human nerve growth factor (rhNGF) eye drops on corneal epithelial regeneration in patients with refractory epitheliopathy. Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted on patients treated with topical rhNGF for refractory epithelial keratopathy due to stage I neurotrophic keratitis (NK). Data regarding demographics and ocular/systemic past medical history was extracted from patient charts. Visual acuity and corneal staining scores were recorded at baseline and subsequent follow-up visits at 8 weeks and 3 months. Measurements from the worse eye were used to compare before and after treatment values. Results: We identified 14 patients (median age 68 years, 21% male) who received rhNGF treatment for refractory epithelial keratopathy. After an 8-week treatment with topical rhNGF, the median corneal staining score in the worse eye improved from 4 to 1 (p = 0.001). All patients showed at least one-grade improvement in corneal staining at 8 weeks, with sustained effect in seven patients at 3 months. A better response was observed in eyes with post-radiation epithelial keratopathy, LASIK, and Sjogren’s disease. Those with chronic use of other topical treatments and uncontrolled diabetes mellitus demonstrated incomplete responses. Eight patients reported mild-to-moderate ocular discomfort from drop application that fully resolved after completion of treatment. Conclusions: Topical rhNGF was effective and safe for refractory epithelial keratopathy in our small cohort, but sustained effects were seen only in certain etiologies for up to 3 months. Further studies are needed for optimal dosing and duration based on underlying causes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOcular Immunology and Inflammation
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Cenegermin
  • epithelial keratopathy
  • epithelial regeneration
  • neurotrophic keratitis
  • recombinant human nerve growth factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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