Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes mellitus that can eventually lead to blindness. Current treatments are not the terribly effective or reliable. For example, drugs in the form of eye drops often have a lower than desirable rate of diffusion into the eye, as well as potential systemic side effects. And, for obvious reasons, most patients aren’t too fond of the more direct needle in the eye approach.
At the University of British Columbia, researchers have developed a novel device that will make drug treatment for diabetic retinopathy safer and more effective. The device, no larger than the head of a pin, consists of a sealed reservoir made of flexible polydimethylsiloxane that is implanted behind the eye. Part of the reservoir’s flexible membrane is magnetic; an electric field applied to the device causes the magnetic membrane to deform and release a controlled amount of drug out of a small hole, much in the same way water is released from a plastic bottle when it’s squeezed.
The advantage of UBC’s device over current micropumps is that it requires no batteries or electricity. Moreover, the UBC device is small enough to be implanted directly into the eye, so it does not have to rely on diffusion. Early lab tests using the drug docetaxel have shown that the device consistently delivers a suitable dosage and did not break or leak after 35 days. Moreover, the docetaxel retained its pharmacological efficacy even after remaining in the device for over two months.
Journal Abstract from Lab on a Chip: On-demand controlled release of docetaxel from a battery-less MEMS drug delivery device