Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Researchers Discover New Drug to Treat Diabetes-Related Vision Loss

    A team of engineers and scientists at the University of British Columbia has developed a device that can be implanted behind the eye for controlled and on-demand release of drugs to treat retinal damage caused by diabetes.

    Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss among patients with diabetes. The disease is caused by the unwanted growth of capillary cells in the retina, which in its advanced stages can result in blindness.

    The lead authors are recent PhD mechanical engineering graduate Fatemeh Nazly Pirmoradi, and Mechanical Engineering Assoc. Prof. Mu Chiao, who studies nanoscience and microelectromechanical systems for biological applications. The co-authors are Prof. Helen Burt and research scientist John Jackson at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences researched,

    A current treatment for diabetic retinopathy is laser therapy, which has side effects, among them laser burns or the loss of peripheral or night vision. Anti-cancer drugs may also used to treat the disease. However, these compounds clear quickly from the bloodstream so high dosages are required, thus exposing other tissues to toxicity.

    Key to UBC's innovation is the ability to trigger the drug delivery system through an external magnetic field. The team accomplished this by sealing the reservoir of the implantable device -- which is no larger than the head of a pin -- with an elastic magnetic polydimethylsiloxane (silicone) membrane. A magnetic field causes the membrane to deform and discharge a specific amount of the drug, much like squeezing water out of a flexible bottle.

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