Bio & Medicine

A tiny nanoparticle could have a significant influence on patients undergoing corneal transplants.

For many people with eye disease, corneal transplants may be the final option for restoring clear vision. In the United States, approximately 80,000 corneal transplants are performed annually, and more than 184,000 surgeries are performed worldwide each year.

However, corneal graft rejection rates can be as high as 10%. This is mostly because patients don’t take their medications as prescribed, which require them to use topical eyedrops a lot and often.

When patients exhibit early signs of rejection of the transplanted corneas, this becomes especially acute. To prevent the corneal grafts from failing, patients must apply topical eye drops every hour.

“To improve patient compliance and treatment success, we created a small nanoparticle (about 200 nanometers in size) that, in animal experiments, allows the medicine to be released for up to six months following a single subconjunctival injection along the eyeball.”

Qingguo Xu, D.Phil., the principal investigator of this project.

Patients are extremely burdened by the time-consuming procedure of administering eyedrops. Graft rejection rates may rise even further as a result of nonadherence to medication treatment.

Using nanoparticles to encapsulate the medication, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University may increase the success rate of corneal grafts.  “Six-month effective treatment of corneal graft rejection” is the title of a paper that was recently published in Science Advances and suggests that the novel strategy has the potential to significantly improve patient compliance.

One of the most widely prescribed corticosteroids, dexamethasone sodium phosphate, is contained within each nanoparticle. It is used to treat ocular inflammation, non-infectious uveitis, macular edema, and corneal neovascularization. By utilizing the nanoparticles to control the arrival of the medication over the long haul, patients would require just a single infusion just after the corneal transplantation medical procedure without the successive eye drops. Our examinations have shown that with this strategy, the prescription keeps up with its viability for quite some time on a corneal join dismissal model.

Furthermore, the method has higher efficacy and safety profiles than traditional eyedrop treatment, and requires much smaller doses because the medication is administered slowly and directly where it is needed.

DPhil candidate Qingguo Xu, the project’s key specialist and an academic administrator of pharmaceutics and ophthalmology at VCU School of Pharmacy, collaborated with Justin Hanes, Ph.D., the Lewis J. Ort professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University.

“We developed a tiny nanoparticle (around 200 nanometers) that in animal studies enables the release of the drug up to six months after a single subconjunctival injection along the eyeball,” Xu stated.  “To improve patient compliance and treatment efficacy.”

“In our preclinical corneal graft rejection model, the single dosing of the nanoparticle successfully prevented corneal graft rejection for six months,” stated Tuo Meng, Ph.D., who worked on the project while a doctoral student at VCU and is the first author of this paper.

More importantly, the nanoparticle strategy prevented corneal graft rejection for six months and reversed early rejection symptoms.

More information: Tuo Meng et al, Six-month effective treatment of corneal graft rejection, Science Advances (2023). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adf4608

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