A Korean research team developed a contact lens that can treat glaucoma efficiently.
The National Research Foundation of Korea announced on November 13 that the research team led by professor Kwon In-chan at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology developed a contact lens for glaucoma treatment that improves drug delivery efficiency by adding vitamin to soft contact lenses. Glaucoma is an eye disease that makes a human visual field gradually narrow as the elevation of an intraocular pressure damages optic nerves.
As eye drop-type drugs are not easy to apply and are easily washed away by tears, drug-containing therapeutic contact lenses are being developed. The basic principle is that a soft contact lens made of hydrophilic hydrogel absorbs and stores a hydrophilic glaucoma drug, and when the lens is worn, the drug is released by a concentration difference due to tears on the eyeball surface.
This method is more effective than eye drops, but the amount of drugs injected and the time of a sustained release are limited. Although new synthetic methods such as adding nanoparticles to contact lenses to increase the absorption of the drug can be used, this process costs a lot of money.
The research team succeeded in increasing the effectiveness of the drug by adding vitamin A and vitamin E along with glaucoma medication to “pHEMA,” which is used in general soft contact lenses. Fat-soluble vitamin A and vitamin E lump with each other in the inside of a contact lens and form a concrete surface which absorbs and maintains more glaucoma medication.
The researchers developed the vitamin contact lens that can treat the disease with only 80% of the amount of a drug required for normal contact lenses.
Glaucoma medication is 660,000 won (US$590) per gram. But vitamin E is cheap -- 1,500 won (US$1.3) per gram, which can dramatically lower the cost of the process, the research team says.
Vitamin A is also effective in the prevention and treatment of dry eye syndrome and vitamin E has antioxidant and UV blocking functions. Thus, they can maximize a therapeutic effect on glaucoma.
This research was funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea’s regional innovation human resources development project. The research results were published in the Scientific Reports, an international academic journal on October 28.