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Hyaluronic acid (HA) was discovered in 1934 by Karl Meyer in an ophthalmology lab at Columbia University. Meyer found the substance in cows' eyes and determined that it helped the eye retain its shape.
Hyaluronic Acid: The Long Research History of a New Oral Compound
There's nothing new about hyaluronic acid in the research community.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) was discovered in 1934 by Karl Meyer in an ophthalmology lab at Columbia University. Meyer found the substance in cows' eyes and determined that it helped the eye retain its shape. The substance was very viscous, leading Meyer to suspect that it might have some therapeutic use. But extracting cows' eyeballs was neither appetizing nor feasible commercially. Along came Dr. Endre Balazs, a Hungarian scientist who also ended up at Columbia. Using Meyer's procedures, Dr. Balazs figured out in the early 1940's how to extract and purify HA from rooster combs.
Since the 1970's, HA has been injected into the joints of racehorses to reduce inflammation, and it was used in veterinary eye surgery. But the compound was not used on humans until 1980, after Dr. Balazs sold his patents and methods to Pharmacia, the Swedish drug company. That year, Pharmacia introduced Healon, a product used in cataract surgery to protect the cornea while a new lens is installed.
In 2003, an HA gel was developed to be injected into wrinkles like those around the nose and chin. That treatment proves in most cases to last six months to a year. Another product, Restylane, was also approved for wrinkle treatment in 2003. It also uses HA, not from animals, but from microbial fermentation - a process cited as producing the most effective form of HA in an article entitled "Will the Real HA Please Stand Up?" in the 2004 Journal of Applied Nutrition.
At a conference at the Cleveland Clinic in October 2003, held by Dr. Balazs and Dr. Vincent Hascall, a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 300 researchers presented data on hyaluronan's potential to heal wounds, prevent scarring and deliver slowly released drugs to precise areas.
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Throughout the rich research history of HA, Dr. Endre A. Balazs has distinguished himself through pioneering research on this viscoelastic substance found throughout the human body. As the world's leading expert for over 50 years on this important
macromolecule, his work has encompassed numerous pioneering discoveries. These contributions include extracting and purifying the molecule itself, a medical product that has made intraocular surgeries almost routine and benefited countless eye surgery patients, and a "cross-linking" technique that ties together hyaluronan strands.
In 1981, Dr. Balazs founded Biomatrix Inc. with Purdue alumna Dr. Janet Denlinger. As the company's chief executive officer and chief science officer, he established a strong research program that focused on modifying HA, work that led to important therapeutic applications, including a viscoelastic supplement for arthritic joints. In 1999, Biomatrix was recognized by Fortune as one of the fastest growing companies in the US. In 2000, Biomatrix was sold to Genzyme, Inc. After the sale of Biomatrix, Dr. Balazs co-founded Matrix Biology Institute Inc. (MBI), a philanthropic foundation with the purpose of promoting HA research. He has advanced the foundation's mission by establishing a comprehensive history and public database on HA research. MBI continues to advance knowledge that leads to the better understanding of the molecular structure, function, and therapeutic and skin care applications of hyaluronan and its derivatives.
With the much more recent dawn of oral HA in the joint supplement marketplace, interest continues to grow and peak as more people use these oral supplements. With so few choices available in a rapidly graying population that wants to stay fit and active, an oral HA solution - like Play Again by Viscos - offers a new dimension for the management of joint stiffness and discomfort.
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