Eyes on blind­ing re­search

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

An Auck­land doc­tor has re­ceived a re­search grant to de­velop a biodegrad­able eye im­plant that could rev­o­lu­tionise treat­ment for blind­ing dis­eases.

In the­ory the im­plant would see pa­tients with blind­ing dis­eases such as age-re­lated mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion avoid­ing fre­quent in­jec­tions into their eyes – which is the cur­rent treat­ment.

Mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion is a med­i­cal con­di­tion that usu­ally af­fects older adults. It is a ma­jor cause of blind­ness in peo­ple aged over 50 and can make it dif­fi­cult to read or recog­nise faces.

Ilva Ru­penthal from the Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land has been awarded a $149,994 Emerg­ing Re­searcher First Grant from the Health Re­search Coun­cil to de­sign a biodegrad­able and in­jectable im­plant for the eye that will slowly re­lease drugs over six to 12 months.

The im­plant will need re­plac­ing only once or twice a year, and top-up doses of drugs can be re­leased us­ing non­in­va­sive light ac­ti­va­tion through the cornea.

‘‘Blind­ing dis­eases are cur­rently treated by fre­quent in­jec­tions of drug-con­tain­ing so­lu­tion into the eye­ball, an un­pleas­ant pro­ce­dure that can lead to se­ri­ous side ef­fects and re­quires fre­quent spe­cial­ist vis­its with de­mand cur­rently ex­ceed­ing sup­ply,’’ Dr Ru­penthal says.

She also plans to de­velop ef­fi­cient gene car­ri­ers that will pro­tect the drugs from de­grad­ing and im­prove their pen­e­tra­tion – re­duc­ing the ef­fec­tive dose re­quired.

The re­search coun­cil has awarded 10 emerg­ing re­searcher grants this year to sup­port those seek­ing to es­tab­lish in­de­pen­dent ca­reers in health re­search.

Gibbs ’ Jenny Re­gional Fa­cil­i­ties

Auck­land Top job: Rhana Deven­port has been ap­pointed as the new di­rec­tor of Auck­land Art Gallery.

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