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From a needle to the eye to normal eyedrops – scientists made an impressive advancement

Sight is definitely one of the most important ways we recognize the world. Just the idea that one may lose the ability to see frightens people. However, now a new method could help treating one of the leading causes of blindness. This study, led by scientists from the University of Birmingham, is impressive not only because it may prevent many people from getting blind, but also how simple this treatment is.

Losing eyesight is terrifying to most, but statistics of age-related macular degeneration are likely to get worse. Image credit: Petr Novák via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Age-related macular degeneration affects more than 600,000 people in the UK alone and is one of the leading causes for blindness globally. It is painless and affects older people almost exclusively. They start losing their central vision, usually in both eyes. Because population is quickly aging it is clear that age-related macular degeneration will affect bigger and bigger part of society and will eventually become a huge global problem. There are treatments however – regular injections into the eye on a monthly basis over at least three years.

Just the thought of getting needles into your eyeballs probably makes you cringe, but now there is a much more patient-friendly option. Scientists developed a medicine, which can be delivered through simple eye drops – sounds much better than eyeball injections. Initial laboratory tests showed that the method is actually as effective as injections, because the substances do penetrate into the eye.

The success of the method relies on cell-penetrating peptide, which is able to deliver the drug to the relevant part of the eye within minutes after drops and applied. Dr Felicity de Cogan, leader of the study, said: “Efficacious self-administered drug application by eye drop would lead to a significant reduction in adverse outcomes and health care costs compared with current treatments”.

Not only patients would not have to go to the doctor to administer the drug and would avoid painful needles, this new method would also alleviate the risk of other potential risks. For example, injections can lead to tearing and infections inside the eye and an increased risk of blindness. Avoiding all these risks, while delivering the drug as effectively is a victory without flaws.

Scientists hope to use a similar drug delivery system to treat other eye conditions as well. The less injections have to be done on the eye, the healthier it is going to be and patiensts should be happy about it too.

 

Source:  University of Birmingham

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