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Building the Better Eye Drop for Innovative Glaucoma Treatment

Posted on December 08, 2016 by Glaucoma Research Foundation

Let's face it: No one likes eye drops. Even the professionals dislike them. “It’s a lousy delivery system,” says Heather Sheardown, a chemical engineer at McMaster University.1 She also has a possible solution for a better system: “If you can deliver drops to the front of the eye at lower concentrations that work over a longer period, it could be huge.”

A process like this one would be a very big step forward. Currently with traditional eye drops, about 95% of the medication is lost before it has an opportunity to work. It is simply blinked away.1 Some can actually enter the bloodstream, which could cause undesired effects. With only 5% of the medication actually having a chance to work, patients need much higher and more frequent dosing than they would if all the medication stayed in the eye. This is a real problem for all eye patients, especially for many glaucoma sufferers who rely on eye drops as their primary, ongoing therapy. So, to solve that problem, Sheardown and her team of graduate students at McMaster have engineered a new kind of eye drop: one that does not wash out.

This is how the new process works: the team created drops that contain tiny molecular packets of medicine. Once applied, these packets lodge themselves imperceptibly in the base of the tear film, where they gradually dissolve and slowly release the entire dose of medicine over time. Making eye drops more efficient in this way would also make them simpler to use.

Older people are at higher risk for glaucoma and tend to have a harder time getting eye drops into their eyes, as they often have to deal with arthritis and other problems that affect manual dexterity. The experience becomes increasingly unpleasant and challenging with age, which often leads to reduced compliance with treatment plans or dropping treatment altogether. Modified eye drops would reduce the number of times per week the patient has to use them, making compliance easier and help keep them up to date on their drug regimen.

The formula is in the final stages of proving the safety and effectiveness of the new technology, which was described recently in the journal Biomacromolecules. Sheardown has also presented the new technology to the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society at their 8th Annual Meeting in Montpelier, France in September of this year, where it was well received. Additionally, she says there has been interest in commercializing the technology, and she hopes it will be on the market in the near future.

By reducing the number of times per week the eye drops are applied, this technology could make the lives of glaucoma patients, as well as the people who care for and about them, better and easier.

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1 Phenylboronic-Acid-Based Polymeric Micelles for Mucoadhesive Anterior Segment Ocular Drug Delivery. Graeme Prosperi-Porta, Stephanie Kedzior, Benjamin Muirhead, and Heather Sheardown Biomacromolecules 2016 17 (4), 1449-1457 DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.6b00054

Last reviewed on December 12, 2016

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