Grant for health 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 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 makes it difficult for them 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 a period of six to 12 months.
The implant will need replacing only once or twice a year and topup doses of drugs can be released using non-invasive light activation through the cornea.
She also plans to develop efficient gene carriers that will protect the drugs from degrading and improve their penetration into the retinal tissues and cellular uptake – reducing the effective dose required.
The research council has awarded 10 grants this year to health researchers seeking to establish independent careers.
‘‘I’m very pleased that through these grants we can give the next generation of talented researchers the chance to lead their own research,’’ chief executive Robin Olds says.