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Topical Cyclosporine Suspension for the Treatment of Brittle Nails

This study has been completed.
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Aida Lugo-Somolinos, MD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Identifier:
First received: February 5, 2010
Last updated: February 1, 2017
Last verified: February 2017

Brittle nail syndrome (BNS) refers to nails that exhibit splitting, raggedness (fraying of the distal edge), and peeling (lamellar onychoschizia).(1) This is a common problem, affecting approximately 20% of women, with higher prevalence among the elderly.(2) A number of factors have been proposed as possible causes of nail brittleness, such as anemia, biotin deficiency, or cysteine deficiency. (3,4) However, most authors believe that brittle nails are usually caused by dehydration of the nail plate, either from repetitive cycles of hydration and dehydration related to hand washing or from exposure to dehydrating chemicals, such as those found in nail enamel and cuticle removers. (5,6) Inflammation of the nail as a potential contributing factor has never been studied.

There are currently not consistently effective treatments for this condition. Restasis® is effective in treating keratoconjunctivitis sicca. This condition is characterized by the troublesome condition of dry eyes partially due to decreased tear production exacerbated by inflammation. The BNS manifests itself by nail plate dehydration. The two conditions have in common disruption of water balance which gives rise to problematic clinical disorders. The hypothesis is that a product which benefits tear production would also be effective for brittle nails which contain roughly 15% water.

Condition Intervention Phase
Brittle Nail Syndrome
Drug: topical cyclosporine ophthalmic suspension 0.05%
Drug: vehicle
Phase 2

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Investigator
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: A Single Center, Investigator-blinded Study of the Efficacy of Topical Cyclosporine 0.05% Ophthalmic Suspension (RESTASIS®) Under Occlusion Versus Vehicle in the Treatment of Brittle Nail Syndrome

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • • Number of Patients Receiving at Least a 1-grade Improvement in the Physicians Global Improvement Assessment (PGIA) of Two Target Nails. [ Time Frame: 20 weeks ]
    IN a scale of 0-3 where 0 means normal nail and 3 means severe disease, the number of patients who received at least a decrease of 1 grade in the evaluation of two target nails

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Patients Assessment of Satisfaction With Length of Fingernails [ Time Frame: 20 weeks ]
    the percentages of participants who were satisfied with the "length of fingernails"

Enrollment: 21
Study Start Date: February 2010
Study Completion Date: August 2011
Primary Completion Date: August 2011 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Active Comparator: topical cyclosporine suspension
apply 2 drops to 2 target nails under occlusion daily for 20 weeks
Drug: topical cyclosporine ophthalmic suspension 0.05%
apply 2 drops to 2 target fingernails under occlusion daily
Other Name: Restasis
Placebo Comparator: vehicle
apply to target nails daily under occlusion daily for 20 weeks
Drug: vehicle
apply 2 drops to 2 target fingernails under occlusion daily for 20 weeks
Other Name: Refresh Dry Eye Therapy

Detailed Description:

Brittle nail syndrome (BNS) is a heterogeneous abnormality, characterized by increased fragility of the nail plate. About 20% of the population is affected by brittle nails and women are affected twice as frequently as men. (2). The diagnostic criteria for brittle nails are not well defined but most authors agree in at least these 3 criteria: onychoschizia (lamellar splitting of the free edge and distal portion of the nail plate), onychorrhexis (longitudinal thickening and thinning or ridging of the nail plate) and fraying or raggedness of the distal edge causing transverse splitting.

Although the cause of nail brittleness is unknown, most authors believe that it is caused by dehydration of the nail plate and that frequent cycles of hydration and dehydration as well as various mechanical and chemical insults increase the incidence of brittle nails. (7) The nail plate contains about 15% water and a very low lipid content so water permeation through the nail plate is high.(8) In fact, it has been demonstrated that the flux of water across the nail plate is 10 times more than the epidermis and 1000 times more permeable than the stratum corneum.(9) A recent report show that there was no significant difference in water content of brittle nails when compared to normal nails and suggested that nail plate water content is random and that nail plates are in a constant state of influx and efflux of water. (10) Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is a chronic, bilateral desiccation of the conjunctiva and cornea due to an inadequate tear film. There are two types: one caused by an inadequate tear volume and the other one caused by an accelerated tear evaporation due to poor tear quality (11). Restasis® (cyclosporine 0.05% topical emulsion) is effective in treating keratoconjunctivitis sicca.

BNS and keratoconjunctivitis sicca have in common a disruption of water balance which gives rise to problematic clinical disorders. We hypothesize that a product which improves corneal dehydration would also be effective for brittle nails. Our rationale for using occlusion is that is has been shown that occluding the skin with a vapor-permeable membrane increases the water flux and the barrier function is recovered at a normal rate. (12) We also hypothesize that using Restasis® (cyclosporine 0.05% topical emulsion) or its vehicle (Refresh Dry Eye Therapy®) under occlusion with a finger cot will increase the nail plate hydration balance and as a consequence will improve nail brittleness. Topical cyclosporine has been shown to be safe in the treatment of other dermatological conditions such as nail psoriasis and oral lichen planus. (13,14) An investigator-blinded design will differentiate if the observed effects are caused by the active ingredient in Restasis® (cyclosporine 0.05% topical emulsion) or its vehicle (Refresh Dry Eye Therapy®).


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 75 Years   (Adult, Senior)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

  • • Must understand and voluntarily sign an informed consent form

    • Must be male or female and aged 18-75 years at time of consent
    • Must be able to adhere to the study visit schedule and other protocol requirements
    • At least 2 of the following: raggedness (fraying of the distal edge), splitting, and peeling (lamellar onychoschizia) of 2 target fingernails of the same hand. If the subject does not have 2 fingernails affected in the same hand, a second fingernail on the other hand may be used as control.
    • A direct microscopic examination with potassium hydroxide (KOH)/calcofluor that is negative for hyphae associated with dermatophytes
    • Women of childbearing potential must have a negative pregnancy test at enrollment

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Inability to provide voluntary consent
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Fingernail fungal infection
  • Use of any investigational medication within 4 weeks prior to start of study drug
  • Subject has any known immunodeficiency or history of malignancy in the last 4 years, excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer.
  • Use of any topical nail medication for 2 weeks
  • Use of any topical nail product (nail polish, hardeners, acetone, etc) for 1 week prior to and during the study.
  • Use of biotin 2 weeks before enrollment.
  • No genetic nail abnormalities
  • Known sensitivity to Restasis® or RDET®.
  • Subject has psoriasis, lichen planus, or other abnormalities that could result in a clinically abnormal fingernail
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT01064830

United States, North Carolina
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States, 27516
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Principal Investigator: Aida Lugo-Somolinos, MD UNC- Chapel Hill
  More Information

Responsible Party: Aida Lugo-Somolinos, MD, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Identifier: NCT01064830     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 09-1141
Study First Received: February 5, 2010
Results First Received: October 2, 2012
Last Updated: February 1, 2017

Keywords provided by University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill:
brittle nail

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Pathologic Processes
Enzyme Inhibitors
Molecular Mechanisms of Pharmacological Action
Immunosuppressive Agents
Immunologic Factors
Physiological Effects of Drugs
Antifungal Agents
Anti-Infective Agents
Dermatologic Agents
Antirheumatic Agents
Calcineurin Inhibitors processed this record on April 28, 2017