A Selective Nanotherapeutics to Treat AMD

Zongchao Han, MD, PhD
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)
Year Awarded:
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021
Macular Degeneration
Award Amount:
Grant Reference ID:
Award Type:
Award Region:
US Southeastern
Zongchao Han, MD, PhD

Selective Targeting Reactive Oxygen Species for Age-related Macular Degeneration


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an age related problem causing vision loss, mainly effected by the gradual buildup of free radicals, the waste products from our cells. We created a solution to prevent AMD progression which serves as a selective waste collector to pick up any specific free radicals. We look to benefit all AMD patients through our treatment.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an age related problem causing vision loss.  This disease is most commonly associated with the gradual buildup of free radicals (cellular waste products) within the central region of the retina, known as the macular.  By utilizing antioxidant nanoparticles to target and selectively eliminate free radical build up, we have created a potential solution to prevent AMD progression.  In this project, we will use our newly developed antioxidant nanoparticle formulations, in both cellular and murine AMD models, to test our hypothesis that the nanoparticle intervention has targeted therapeutics by reducing free radical-induced cell damage, while ensuring minimal side effects on the surrounding normal retinal cells.  The overall goal of this project is to combine the established outstanding treatments for AMD, while introducing more effective nano antioxidant treatments.  In doing this, we hope to complete the steps necessary to bring a safer and more effective nano antioxidant system into a clinical trial for both dry and wet AMD patients. We look to greatly benefit all AMD patients through our innovative treatment.

About the Researcher

Dr. Zongchao Han is Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an expert in the field of drug/gene deliveries, which utilizes nanoparticles and biomaterials for the treatment and study of ocular disorders. Dr. Han’s laboratory is developing novel therapies and tools for targeted ocular therapy, including age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, and retinoblastoma. His laboratory has developed a water-soluble antioxidant nanoceria formulation (PCT/US2018/018298). Their studies have shown promising selective antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory response, and anti-angiogenesis both in in vitro and in vivo AMD models, indicating the feasibility of using this system as an alternative and novel approach for AMD patients for whom current therapies will not work or are not available.  In addition, Dr. Han is working on several biocompatible and biodegradable injectable hydrogels for the delivery of several types of therapeutic agents with sustained and controlled release, and innovative nano-delivery systems that have the capability to carry multiple imaging, targeting, and therapeutic moieties to restore vision. He has served as reviewer for more than 8 Institutes/Foundations, including National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), Fight for Sight, German Research Foundation, French National Research Agency, University City Science Center QED program, and NEI Special Emphasis Panels.  His lab is currently supported by the BrightFocus Foundation, Thome Memorial Foundation, Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, and National Eye Institute.

Personal Story

My motivation to pursue a career in the research field and solve clinical conundrums has stemmed from my educational background. I earned both my MD and PhD, which paved the way for my extensive medical/ educational experience, which includes: 10 years of clinical experience in neurology, 6 years of postdoc training in gene therapy, and nearly 11 years of academic employment in vision research at the rank of Assistant/Associate Professor. Over the past decade, I have gained tremendous experience with retinal gene/drug therapies using nanotechnology and biomaterials. My research approach has been multidisciplinary, ranging from methodologies to treatments, from cells to small and big animal models, and from molecular genetics to chemistry and nanomedicine. The primary purpose of my research is to develop novel strategies for the treatment of retinal disorders using nanoparticle-mediated gene/drug delivery. My long-term goal is to translate these technologies into clinical application.  My aspirations as a researcher could not have been attained if it was not for the funding and donations given to my research team over the years.  I appreciate those who have helped and supported our research. Thank you so much for the generous donations to the BrightFocus Foundation.

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