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New Nanoparticle Drug Delivery Can Help Enhance Glaucoma Treatments

Posted on June 22, 2017 by Glaucoma Research Foundation
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Only a decade or so ago, the idea of using nanotechnology in humans brought up images like the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The idea that you could change through technology was the thing that made these baddies so frightening. Nowadays, thanks to advanced research and dedicated doctors, nanotechnology could offer an amazing breakthrough for glaucoma sufferers.

Today, we see the exciting potential of nanoparticles across the medical spectrum. In glaucoma, this option manifests primarily as a vehicle for improved drug delivery, since nanoparticles can be used to better target where the medication are delivered and increase the amount of the drugs absorbed, preventing unnecessary increases in dosage and potential drug toxicity. This is an exciting line of research that could answer many questions and alleviate many problems, associated with glaucoma drug therapy.

A Brief History of Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are tiny, man-made objects that range in diameter from 1 to 2500 nanometers. To put that into perspective, that’s 1 billionth of a meter. You would think nanoparticles are a new thing, but according to Dr Ananya Mandal, MD, nanoparticles have been around since the 9th century.1 Mesopotamian artisans would generate nanoparticles by combining mixtures of metals and minerals, and heating them to about 600 °C in a reducing atmosphere. These mixtures contained silver and copper nanoparticles, centuries before the first scientific description of the optical properties of nanometer-scale metals in 1857. Of course, it would be many decades before nanoparticles’ technological and medical properties were fully understood and utilized as an efficient drug delivery system.

Better and More Effective Eye Drops

Effective glaucoma drug treatment has several challenges, all of which come under the heading of building the better eye drop. According to the authors of a recent study that focused on the creation of nano eye-drops and effective drug delivery, “Compounds in conventional eye-drops barely penetrate into the eye because the cornea, located at the surface of eye, has a strong barrier function for preventing invasion of hydrophilic or large-sized materials from the outside.”2

The study described how nanoparticles carrying medication were able to evade these defenses, thus increasing the eye penetration rate of the medication. Because of this increased penetration, drug efficacy also increased dramatically as compared with the efficacy of commercially available brinzolamide eye-drops. Moreover, the nano eye-drops were not toxic to the cornea, even after repeated administration for one week. The results show that nano eye-drops might have applications as a next-generation ophthalmic treatment.

These results corroborate earlier studies. For example, in 2007, researchers at the University of Central Florida and North Dakota State University showed that nanoparticles demonstrated high penetration rates as well as little patient discomfort. The miniscule size of the nanoparticles makes them less abrasive than some of the complex polymers now used in most eye drops. "The nanoparticle can safely get past the blood-brain barrier, making it an effective non-toxic tool for drug delivery," said Sudipta Seal, an engineering professor with appointments in UCF's Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center and the Nanoscience Technology Center.3

The Future of Nanoparticles

Evidence is building that nanoparticles will prove an excellent drug delivery system, and it won’t be long until this technology reaches patients in the mainstream. This story, however, shows us something even more remarkable: In only a few years, this technology went from the world of science fiction to becoming the science fact of today, thanks to the time and dedication of the research scientists devoted to their work.

Glaucoma Research Foundation is dedicated to supporting these dedicated researchers in their goals, bringing new treatment and prevention options to glaucoma patients. Your generous support of GRFs mission means support for bold research like this.

1 Mandal, Ananya, MD. "What are Nanoparticles?" News-Medical.net. N.p., 08 Oct. 2014. Web. 02 May 2017.

2 Ikuta, Y. et al. Creation of nano eye-drops and effective drug delivery to the interior of the eye. Sci. Rep. 7, 44229; doi: 10.1038/srep44229 (2017).

3 "UCF nanoparticle offers promise for treating glaucoma." EurekAlert! UCF, 18 June 2007. Web. 02 May 2017.

Last reviewed on June 20, 2017

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