In what could be a breakthrough for the millions worldwide suffering from age-related eye disorders, scientists have found that drugs could be successfully administered by eye drops rather than unpleasant and expensive eye injections.
The current treatment of injecting drugs into the eye is uncomfortable, detested by patients and often needs repeated monthly injections in hospital for as long as 24 consecutive months.
The new research demonstrates that it is possible to create formulations of tiny nanoparticles loaded with the age-related macular degeneration (AMD) drug Avastin and deliver significant concentrations to the back of the eye.
"The development of eye drops that can be safely and effectively used in patients would be a magic bullet - a huge breakthrough in the treatment of AMD and other debilitating eye disorders," said professor Francesca Cordeiro from the Institute of Ophthalmology at the University College London.
One in five people over 75 have age-related macular degeneration worldwide.
Effective delivery of drugs to the retina of the eye is considered one of the most challenging areas in drug development in ophthalmology owing to the presence of anatomical barriers.
The researchers showed in animal models a formulation system to get substances including Avastin across the barriers in the eye and transport them across the cells of the cornea.
"All the components we used are safe and well established in the field, meaning we could potentially move quite quickly to get the technology into trials in patients," added Ben Davis from the university's institute of ophthalmology.
The research was published in nanotechnology journal Small.