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Small Items, Big Impact

Posted by Ilena Di Toro | Posted on July 5, 2023

What do nanoparticles and small-molecule drugs have in common, other than the fact that they are small? They can both be used as therapeutics for vision. Nanoparticles can be used post-op to prevent the rejection of corneal grafts. Small-molecule drugs can be used for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa. Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University and University of California, Irvine have researched these compounds and have found that they have to potential to improve outcomes for patients with these diseases.

Nanoparticles and Eye Medications
Corneal transplants can provide vision to people suffering from eye disease. The problem is that rates of rejection for the corneal grafts can be as high as 10 percent. This is due to compliance issues with medication, namely having to administer eyedrops. This becomes burdensome for patients, especially when there are early signs of rejection since it become necessary to apply drops every hour to prevent graft failure. So, there needed to be another way to administer medication.

Enter nanoparticles. Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University developed a way for nanoparticles to encapsulate a corticosteroid called dexamethasone sodium phosphate. This is used for many ocular diseases. The use of nanoparticles to control the release of the medication over time means that patients would need to get only one injection immediately after the surgery, and there would be no need for frequent eye drops. The team’s research has shown that using nanoparticles to deliver the medication helps to maintain its efficacy for six months. Since the medication is released slowly and directly where it is needed, utilizing nanoparticles means that lower doses are required. In addition, using nanoparticles to deliver the medicine maintained the corneal grafts for six months without rejections.

Small Particle Drugs and Eye Diseases
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have found that a new kind of drug, known as ‘Stress Resilience-Enhancing Drugs’ (SREDs) can be utilized to treat eye diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinitis pigmentosa. These diseases are caused by genetic and environment disruptions that lead to cell and tissue instability. Unfortunately, the treatment options for these diseases are limited.

Enter SREDs. Researchers utilized disease modeling to identify ways to treat eye disease that go to the root cause. They found that SREDs helped to preserve the retina’s tissue structure and function across multiple disease models. The use of SREDs shows promise as a way to treat eye disease, especially in its early stages and the hope is that they will become the standard of care, not just for eye diseases but for other diseases where there are no therapeutic options, thus improving outcomes for patients. As a result of this work, researchers have found a seed-stage startup company to commercialize the intellectual property associated with this discovery.

It has been said that big things come in small packages. Now potential treatments for eye diseases can be found in small packages and they will generate positive outcomes for people with these diseases. That’s big, really big.


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