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Gene therapy droplet may treat eye diseases, prevent blindness

Successful tests with rats suggests injection may not be the only method for treating some eye diseases.

By Stephen Feller
Gene therapy droplet may treat eye diseases, prevent blindness
Researchers in China developed a method of delivering gene therapy to the eye using drops, suggesting a way around injecting drugs for treatment. Photo by Csaba Deli/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, July 27 (UPI) -- While gene therapy can be effective for eye diseases, treatments must be delivered using an injection, generally disliked by patients.

Researchers in China have developed a way to treat diseases such as macular degeneration and proliferative diabetic retinopathy using eye drops, potentially providing an easier way to treat the conditions, according to a press release.

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Both conditions develop in the back of the eye, where vascular endothelial growth factor stimulates the growth of blood vessels. Currently, gene therapy to block the VEGF's action requires an injection, but researchers found the combination of a peptide and synthetic polymer in droplet form helped the drugs reach their destination in rats.

For the study, published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, researchers tested a combination of the peptide penetratin and polymer polyamidoamine for delivery of drugs to the eye in rats.

Penetratin has been shown in previous studies to permeate the eye effectively, while polyamindoamine is used regularly for drug delivery.

In the experiments, the researchers found the combination penetrated the rodents' eyes quickly and stayed in the retina for more than eight hours, allowing drugs to be delivered to the back of the eye has hoped -- suggesting a therapy preferable to injection could be on the horizon.

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"This study provides a facile and friendly approach for intraocular gene delivery and is an important step toward the development of noninvasive gene therapy for posterior segment diseases," researchers wrote in the study.

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