CANBERRA, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The need for eye injections to help treat macular degeneration could become a thing of the past thanks to a breakthrough in medicine developed by Australian and Chinese researchers.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) released a statement on Wednesday detailing the breakthrough, in which gold has been identified as a key ingredient.
The CSIRO's Dr Johan Basuki said a patented hydrogel, which is infused with gold nanoparticles, can release pre-loaded therapeutics when exposed to light. He said the drug delivery method will reduce the number of injections required by patients with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
"This unique delivery system improves on current therapeutic delivery which is via frequent injections to the back of the eye," Basuki said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Many effective biomacromolecule therapeutics are currently available to patients with AMD, but due to their susceptibility to biodegradation they are required to be administered via an ongoing monthly injection into the eye.
"Our system can control the release of drugs though exposure to light, which means a higher concentration can be injected, with the drug release activated monthly using light.
"Importantly the drug doesn't need to be modified in any way and it retains very high biological activity after release."
The gold nanoparticles are able to absorb light at specific wavelengths and then release the energy as heat, helping the polymer matrix to soften which increases the diffusion of the drug.
The CSIRO said once the light source is turned off, the nanoparticles stop releasing heat, therefore stopping the release of drugs. He said further research could result in the breakthrough being used in treatments for any number of conditions.
"Infrared light, for instance, could release drugs used in deep tissue, solid tumor therapy. It could even play a role in fighting cancer, while possible personal care and agricultural applications are also being investigated," the statement read.
According to the CSIRO, investment partners are being sought to "help take its research to the next stage".