Eyes on blinding research
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.
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