Revolutionary eye drops treat age-related blindness

Scientists at the University of Birmingham have developed a type of eye drop that could potentially revolutionize the treatment of one of the leading causes of blindness in the United Kingdom.

The results of the collaborative research, published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, could spell the end of painful injections directly into the eye to treat the increasingly common eye disorder known as age-related macular degeneration.

AMD affects more than 600,000 people in the U.K. and predictions suggest this figure could rise sharply in future because of an aging population. A painless condition that causes people to gradually lose their central vision, usually in both eyes, AMD is currently treated by repeated injections into the eye on a monthly basis over at least three years. However, apart from being an unpleasant procedure for patients to undergo, the injections can cause tearing and infections inside the eye and an increased risk of blindness.

Now scientists led by biochemist Felicity de Cogan, from the University of Birmingham's Institute of Inflammation and Aging, have invented a method of delivering the injected drug as an eye drop instead, and their laboratory research has obtained the same outcomes as the injected drug.

The drop uses a cell-penetrating peptide to deliver the drug to the relevant part of the eye within minutes.

“Efficacious self-administered drug application by eye drop would lead to a significant reduction in adverse outcomes and healthcare costs compared with current treatments,” said de Cogan. “The CPP-plus drug complex also has potential application to other chronic ocular diseases that require drug delivery to the posterior chamber of the eye. We believe this is going to be very important in terms of empowering of patients and reducing the cost of treatment to the NHS.”