Gabriel Sosne, M.D.
While mustard gas was first used against troops in World War I, it was most recently deployed as a debilitating weapon by Saddam Hussein’s army during the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s. As a vesicant, mustard gas and similar compounds have a blistering effect that causes severe eye, skin and mucosal lining irritation and burns. Unprotected soldiers exposed to mustard gas suffered severe corneal damage leading to blindness.
Over the next year, Dr. Sosne will work with military researchers to test how well Thymosin Beta 4, in the form of RGN-259 eye drops, prevents eye damage before exposure to chemical agents, as well as determe their ability to reduce damage to the eye from such chemicals.
“Soldiers may one day carry RGN-259 drops as part of their normal protection kit, along with their gas masks and protective chemical suits,” Dr. Sosne said. “It may also have very practical applications in industry. It could become part of the standard first aid cabinet in factories and industries employing caustic materials.”
Thymosin Beta 4, which is being commercially developed by RegeneRx and is now in Phase II clinical trials, is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring peptide found in nearly all human cells. Ongoing research is investigating the compound’s effectiveness in skin and cardiovascular tissue repair, as well as in tissue regeneration or the prevention of cell death in the eye.
Dr. Sosne said he first encountered Thymosin Beta 4 when he worked at the National Institutes of Health for a year. “Originally, I was studying angiogenesis at the NIH. When we found that Thymosin Beta 4 promoted wound healing in skin, I thought it would work just as well in the cornea,” he said.
His group has been studying the agent’s wound-healing effects and its possible use in previously untreatable eye injuries. He has found that Thymosin Beta 4 promotes corneal wound healing.