Nanotechnology to change AMD treatment practices

It is likely that medication for diseases that lead to loss of eye-sight will not have to be delivered by unpleasant and expensive eye injections. It can be implemented into eye drops instead, according to a team of UK researchers, whose study was published in the nanotechnology journal Small.

The technology has been tested on animals and it can be in a breakthrough in treatment of such diseases that lead to loss of eye-sight as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The number of people with AMD and similar conditions is increasing dramatically. At the moment, according to statistics, 20% of people over the age of 75 suffer from AMD.

About 1,000,000 eye injections of the medications that inhibit the progress of AMD were given in the USA in 2010, and about 30,000 were administered in the UK in 2008, which is 150 times more than 10 years before.

Eye injections are very uncomfortable for patients and difficult to apply, as well as time-consuming and costly. They can also result in infection and bleeding. In some cases, patients have to come to the clinic to get the injections every month for two years.

Thus, replacement of injections with safe and effective eye-drops could bring an immense relief for patients. It would be a major breakthrough in AMD treatment practices, thinks Francesca Cordeiro, lead author of the study, a professor in the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London (UCL).

It has been a real challenge to discover a method to transport drugs to the retina. Before the study, the molecules of medications for AMD treatment (e.g. Avastin or Lucentis) were believed to be too large to be delivered through cornea to the back of the eyes in eye-drops.

But the study explains and shows how nanoparticles loaded with the drug can transport substantial amounts across the cells of the cornea to the retina of small rodents. The researchers have proved that it is possible to deliver Avastin in eye-drops into the back of the eye, halt the leak of blood vessels and prevent formation of new blood vessels, i.e. stop the progress of wet AMD. Theoretically, the technology can be modified to deliver other drugs for AMD treatment, e.g. Lucentis, which has smaller particles than Avastin.

The eye-drop method has been patented by UCL Business, UCL’s technology transfer company, which is now searching for funding partners to start the clinical trials. The authors emphasize that all the components of the technology are absolutely safe and established, which can speed up the project and help begin trials with patients.