Corneal nerves are sometimes cut when the flap is made during LASIK. Fortunately, treatment with a nerve growth factor (NGF) has demonstrated the ability to both stimulate corneal nerve regeneration and potentially treat dry eye, a common postoperative complication of LASIK. Researchers recently studied its effects and found that NGF had “an obvious effect” on nerve repair and a potential for improvement of dry eye symptoms.

The study compared NGF with hycosan and normal saline treatments on 38 New Zealand white rabbits that underwent LASIK. The researchers measured corneal sensitivity, nerve density and number of corneal subbasal and superficial stromal nerves. They compared these results at one and three months post-op. Tear breakup time (TBUT) was used to assess dry eye. At three months after surgery, the corneas were excised for immunohistochemical analysis.

The researchers reported that after LASIK, NGF significantly accelerated the recovery time of subbasal and superficial stromal nerve densities and numbers at both time intervals. Corneal sensitivity was also significantly enhanced in the NGF group. TBUT showed statistically significantly longer times in the NGF group at both follow-up points, and immunofluorescence analysis revealed that nerve fiber quantity was larger in the NGF group.

The researchers concluded that topically administered NGF promoted corneal sensitivity, nerve regeneration and improved dry eye symptoms after LASIK.

Gong Q, Zhang S, Jiang L, et al. The effect of nerve growth factor on corneal nerve regeneration and dry eye after LASIK. Exp Eye Res 2021;203:108428.