Eye doctors may soon have a better way to treat diseases such as macular degeneration that affect tissues in the back of the eye thanks to tiny microneedles. This could be important as the population ages and develops more eye-related illnesses. Pharmaceutical companies also develop new drugs that otherwise could only be administered by injecting into the eye with a hypodermic needle.
For the first time, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University have demonstrated that microneedles less than a millimeter in length can deliver drug molecules and particles to the eye in an animal model. The injection targeted the suprachoroidal space of the eye, which provides a natural passageway for drug injected across the white part (sclera) of the eye to flow along the eye's inner surface and subsequently into the back of the eye. The minimally-invasive technique could represent a significant improvement over conventional methods that inject drugs into the center of the eye - or use eyedrops, which have limited effectiveness in treating many diseases.
The study was reported in the July issue of the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science
. The research was supported by the National Eye Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, and by the organization Research to Prevent Blindness.
"This research could lead to a simple and safe procedure that offers doctors a better way to target drugs to specific locations in the eye," said Samirkumar Patel, the paper's first author and a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia Tech when the research was conducted. "The design and simplicity of the microneedle device may make it more likely to be used in the clinic as a way to administer drug formulations into the suprachoroidal space that surrounds the eye."