Scheffer C.G. Tseng, MD, PhD, is a surgeon in ocular surface reconstruction. He is the co-founder and chief technology officer of BioTissue, a biotechnology company that harnesses the power of human birth tissue to support regenerative healing for ocular surface disease (OSD) and in surgical, chronic wound, and musculoskeletal applications. BioTissue’s portfolio of cryopreserved amniotic membrane products use its proprietary CryoTek cryopreservation technology. Dr. Tseng pioneered limbal stem cell transplantation and developed and commercialized the CryoTek process to preserve the natural therapeutic properties of amniotic membrane.
Ophthalmology Management: Can you discuss why you co-founded BioTissue and your role as chief technology officer?
Scheffer C.G. Tseng, MD, PhD: My goal was to solve an unmet patient need I identified while serving as chair professor at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. I would often see patients with chemical eye burns and other severe OSDs and set out to find something that would help promote regenerative healing while minimizing scarring and inflammation. I experimented with and was impressed by how human birth tissue seemed to help promote an improved healing environment for my patients. My wife, Amy Tseng, and I established BioTissue, parent company TissueTech Inc., and Amniox Medical, to bring together the scientists and resources needed to learn more about the healing power of human birth tissues. This team developed and brought to market TissueTech’s current product line.
As chief technology officer, I am the inventor, so I handle the research and development end and continue to do research to discover how it works, how we can make it into more products and more clinical uses.
OM: Why is amniotic membrane such a valuable tool in ophthalmology? What type of OSDs are best managed with this treatment?
ST: We discovered early on that stem cell transplantation sometimes fails, and that’s how we discovered the use of amniotic membrane to address this puzzle. Our research suggests that if you view the stem cell as the seed you plant in the garden, then amniotic membrane may serve as the topsoil to support the stem cell function.
Amniotic membrane has since become a valuable tool because it can be used to treat the most devastating disease states like chemical burns and Stevens-Johnson syndrome — that’s how it was discovered originally. We then gradually realized that the amniotic membrane could help many other common, less severe OSDs, like an ulcer, defect or dry eye.
OM: How does BioTissue technology improve patient outcomes/save valuable time in the OR?
ST: When amniotic membrane was first used, it was performed in the OR, during the surgery, where a suture was used to secure the membrane onto the eye. As many others have used this product and published its use in many eye diseases, we realized that you don’t have to bring the patient to the OR if you can develop a method to deliver amniotic membrane in the office. That was the reason we developed Prokera as a contact lens. Also, we learned that the amniotic membrane works the best if you can perform early intervention — the earlier you can deliver the treatment, the better the outcome. Using chemical burn as an example, from the day the burn starts, you have about a 2-week regenerative window. Within this period, if you use this technology, the result is quite remarkable to restore vision. However, any type of delay could be detrimental to the outcome.
OM: Can you discuss your most recent discovery with amniotic membrane?
ST: We learned that amniotic membrane can not only control inflammation and prevent scarring, but can also help promote nerve regeneration. That is why amniotic membrane has the aforementioned lasting benefit to address several deficits, particularly in dry eye, which is known to be multifactorial. By being able to help control inflammation, while at the same time helping the nerve function, it presents a unique method in treating dry eye in three ways:
1. The treatment is more like a pulse therapy. You use it for only 3-5 days.
2. Because it is a multifunctional mode, the moment when the Prokera ring is removed, the patient can see the benefit immediately.
3. This pulse therapy is less expensive and can last up to 3 months. OM