LONDON, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Scientists at the University of Birmingham in Britain are one step closer to developing drops that can be self-administered to treat an eye condition that causes sight loss in millions of people, it was revealed Thursday.
The drops would bring an end to the need for the current treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in which sight-saving drugs have to be injected into the eye by medical professionals.
Half a million people in Britain suffer from AMD, which is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world.
Its prevalence is increasing dramatically as the population ages and it is estimated that, by 2020, there will be about 200 million people worldwide with the condition.
Scientists led by biochemist Dr Felicity de Cogan, from the University of Birmingham's Institute of Microbiology and Infection, have invented a method of delivering these otherwise-injected drug as eye drops.
Laboratory research has shown that the eye drops have a similar therapeutic effect as the injected drug in rats. Now the Birmingham scientists have taken their research one step further by investigating the effect of the eye drops in the larger eyes of rabbits and pigs, which are more similar to human eyes.
The latest study, published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS, demonstrates that the eye drops can deliver a therapeutically effective amount of the drugs to the retina of the larger mammalian eye.
The scientists' pending patents for the eye drops are now owned by U.S.-based company, Macregen Inc. A team of Birmingham researchers is working with the company to develop a novel range of therapies for AMD and other eye diseases.
Clinical trials will be imminent once these studies are completed, and could start as early as spring 2019.
Dr de Cogan said: "For several years, our team has focused on the challenge of delivering drugs to the back of the eye. We realized that delivering drugs through eye drops would mean that patients can administer their treatment themselves, and this would be less costly, save time for patients and healthcare providers, and reduce the potential complications that can arise from injections.
Professor Robert Scott, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Honorary Professor of Ophthalmology at University of Birmingham, said the drops will drive the next generation of treatment for people with AMD.
"They will be transformative for patients who currently have to organize their lives around monthly clinic visits for uncomfortable intraocular injections, who will in the future have the convenience of self-administering their medical treatment."