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UBC's vision for new diabetic retinopathy delivery device

By Natalie Morrison, 06-Jul-2011

Related topics: Delivery technologies, Ingredients

Scientists at the University of British Columbia have pioneered a magnetic retinal implant that can supply a regulated and on-demand release of drugs to treat blindness from diabetic retinopathy.

The researchers also believe the new targetive drug delivery device could be used to treat other ocular diseases like macular degeneration and glaucoma, as well as in oncology to help reduce the overall effects of chemotherapy medication.

The implant, made from a biocompatible polymer, is the approximate size and shape of a reduced diameter contact lens, and has a hollow reservoir filled with cancer treatment drug Docetaxel.

The team say alternate medicines may be used, however Docetaxel is particularly suited to the device as it shuts down the proliferation of capillary cells on the retina - the cause of proliferative retinology – at very low concentrations.

Once in its location the reservoir, which is covered by a magnetic membrane with a small laser-cut aperture, slowly fills with fluid allowing some drug to dissolve up to its solubility limit.

When a permanent magnet is brought within an inch of the device the membrane deflects and releases a unit dosage.

Research Scientist and co-author of paper describing the technology, John K. Jackson told in-Pharmatechnologist: “Current treatment use lasers to destroy the new vessels. Recently, antibodies to VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) have been shown to block the proliferative action of VEGF on blood vessels and this injection may be made into the vitreous humor to inhibit capillary cell proliferation.

“Docetaxel is a powerful anticancer drug. The drug also shuts down the proliferation of capillary cells at very low concentrations.

“However, if the drug was delivered systemically to treat the retina, all body tissues would be exposed to the drug with usual chemo-toxicity issues associated with cancer chemotherapy.

“There is a clear benefit to delivering the drug in the area of the retina to reduce systemic exposure.”

Clear path ahead

Though the device could still take around five years to hit the market, the team already has a clear idea of who their investors might be.

With the need for polymer lenses, powdered form of treatment drugs, and a magnetic catalyst with which researchers hope the patient will be able to administer their own dosage, Jackson has foretold potential partners are pharmaceutical device companies with a history in both drugs and delivery technology.

He said: “I think a potential investment group or partner might be a pharmaceutical device company with a history of combining drugs with devices. Companies such as Boston Scientific, Medtronic, J & J or Angiotech. “

And, according to Vancouver General Hospital’s Dr Frederik Mikelberg, with the potential for implanting the device in other locations in the body such as in a tumor resection to focus the effects of the chemotherapy, hence allowing higher dosage, the invention could well attract further attention from the world of oncology.