Imagine being treated for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with an eyedrop instead of an injection directly to your eye.
A study published this month shows that it may be possible. Scientists at the University of Birmingham have developed a new type of eyedrop capable of delivering wet AMD treatment to the back of the eye where the disease damages the retina, causing blindness.
This development could potentially revolutionize treatment for AMD, a leading cause of blindness worldwide.
"This is exciting for both patients and practitioners,” said Dr. Jayanth Sridhar, assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “But this was a preliminary study in animal eyes only. Further research must be undertaken in human subjects first to establish safety, and then to establish effectiveness. Still, this study offers at least a glimmer of hope that in the coming years we may see a topical drop option emerge to supplement or replace injections."
Wet AMD is currently treated with medications called anti-VEGF drugs. An ophthalmologist – a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care – delivers it to the eye through a thin needle. Regular treatment allows most patients to keep their vision.
Problem is, patients need injections as frequently as every month, making treatment time-consuming and expensive for patients and the health care system. Treatment also carries a risk of complications, such as infection and retinal detachment. A less invasive alternative would be welcomed by both patients and physicians.
Typical eyedrops deliver treatment only to the eye’s surface. This new eyedrop uses a cell-penetrating peptide to deliver the drug through the many tissue barriers between the eye’s surface and the back of the eye – within minutes.
Researchers treated mice with the anti-VEGF eyedrop twice a day, and found that it was as effective as a single injection of anti-VEGF treatment.
“Obviously, we need more work to evaluate its safety and efficacy in humans before we get to the point that we can use it as a routine treatment,” said Dr. Kasra Rezaei, an assistant professor of surgical and medical retina at the University of Washington in Seattle. “But this was a very interesting paper.”