Nanotechnology, or the science and engineering of making particles smaller and more useful, has been used to create hundreds of products, from ultraviolet-ray dispersing particles in sunscreen to golf balls that fly straighter, to computer hard drives that store more using less space. The healing arts also have benefited from this science, which has downsized and manipulated particles to come up with better ways to detect heart disease and keep tumors from growing.
Now some researchers are hopeful that nanotechnology will eventually make it possible to deliver anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) treatments like Avastin (bevacizumab) and Lucentis (ranibizumab), and possibly other drugs, to the back of the eye in drops, rather than injections, to stop blood vessel growth—the hallmark of “wet” age-related macular degeneration (AMD). So far, injections are the only way to get the large protein molecules in anti-VEGF agents through the eye’s anatomical barrier. Now Benjamin M. Davis and colleagues at University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology report early success in animal models using liposomal drug carrier systems (ie, nanoparticles covered in fat). Their observations were published online March 5, 2014, in Small, a nanotechnology journal.
Does this mean that eye injections for AMD will become a thing of the past? Hopefully, someday. UCL Business, which holds the patent on the experimental technology, is looking for commercial partners to speed development. However, years of research and clinical testing in humans lie ahead. Also, UCL’s attempt is one of many to find a “magic bullet” to replace eye injections; NIH lists dozens of clinical trials investigating eyedrops to treat wet and dry forms of AMD.