Health and Healthcare

Scientists have created biodegradable microneedles to fight eye disease

A doctor checks the eyesight of Carin Bell, one of a group of about 50 children who were being tested at the Red Cross Children Hospital in Cape Town, October 11, 2007. World Sight Day 2007 is observed on October 11 and focuses on the issues of childhood blindness.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA) - GM1DWIROVTAA

A young girl has her eyes tested. Image: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Rosamond Hutt
Senior Writer, Formative Content
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Health and Healthcare?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Health and Healthcare is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Health and Healthcare

“I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.”

That phrase – said famously by Jack Nicholson in the 1983 film Terms Of Endearment – has become a sarcastic catchphrase. But now, scientists in Singapore are exploring a novel method of treating eye diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy that would involve pushing tiny needles into patients’ eyes.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore developed a contact lens-like patch with nine microneedles that can be filled with drugs.

When pressed gently into the eye, the microneedles – which are biodegradable and thinner than a strand of hair – break off by themselves and remain in the cornea, continuing to release the drugs before eventually dissolving.

While the treatment might sound unappealing, the NTU team say it’s painless. And importantly, it could be a more effective technique to deliver eye drugs than current methods.

Eye injections can be painful and carry a risk of infection and eye damage, while drops and ointments can be washed out by tears or blinking and some patients struggle to continue administering them at home.

The eye patch has nine microneedles that can be loaded with drugs. Image: NTU Singapore

The researchers tested the patch on mice with corneal vascularization, where oxygen deprivation causes new blood vessels to grow into the corneal tissue - a condition that can lead to blindness.

They found that, after a single treatment dose of 1 microgram was applied on a patch, there was a 90% reduction in the area of blood vessels, compared to no significant reduction when 10 times the amount of drug was applied in droplet form.

Professor Chen Peng, a biotechnology expert at NTU who also developed a fat-burning microneedle patch, led the research team with input from Singapore National Eye Centre’s Associate Professor Gemmy Cheung. Their findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Have you read?

Chen said the patch could provide an efficient and long-lasting method of localized drug delivery that patients could apply themselves at home.

“The microneedles are made of a substance found naturally in the body, and we have shown in lab tests on mice that they are painless and minimally invasive.

“If we successfully replicate the same results in human trials, the patch could become a good option for eye diseases that require long-term management at home, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

“Patients who find it hard to keep up with the regime of repeatedly applying eye drops and ointments would also find the patch useful as well, as it has the potential to achieve the same therapeutic effect with a smaller and less frequent dosage.”

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Health and HealthcareGlobal Health
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

5 conditions that highlight the women’s health gap

Kate Whiting

February 27, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum