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News Archive 2001 - 2010

Nanoparticles Target Tissues to Cure Eye Diseases/Conditions

June 23, 2005

Another breakthrough in the world of the ultra-small is on the horizon; one that will bring hope to millions of people who are losing their sight due to macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy and other diseases and conditions.

University of Texas at Arlington Bioengineering Associate Professor Liping Tang is developing nanoparticles that carry drugs to a specific area of the eye. Fifty five percent of all eye diseases occur on the back interior of the eyeball. In current treatments, however, only about five percent of medications get to the desired eye tissue.

Oral and injected medications are readily absorbed by other vascular organs such as the liver and kidney. The medication that does arrive tends to either clump randomly, away from the area where it’s needed, or not penetrate the retinal tissue. Other treatments such as rod or capsule implants are often associated with severe side effects, such as retinal detachment.

To solve the problem, Dr. Tang sought to develop nano-sized hydrogel particles that target retina tissue. The major challenge of the initial work was that hydrogel nanoparticles aggregated with vitreous fluid shortly after implantation. By increasing the affinity of nanoparticles to vitreous proteins, Dr. Tang has now successfully developed nanoparticles that are actively transported to the retinal tissue. The “smart” nanoparticles may be used to rapidly deliver potent medicine to retina tissue without risking the potential side effect occurred in other part of the body. The hydrogels form an almost-colorless liquid and are approximately 200 nanometers in diameter.

Dr. Tang has applied for a patent on these developments and will begin animal tests soon. The National Institutes of Health provided $943,000 to fund the initial research and has added an additional three-year, $860,000 grant for his work on “smart” engineered materials.