Blindness is a terrible affliction and robs one of the capacity to enjoy the light that nature bestows the body and without which the darkness that ensues is unbearably unimaginable. Hence the news that eye drops that can successfully cure one of the most common causes of blindness has been developed by scientists. Age related macular degeneration, which effects some 500, 000 people in the UK, is currently treated with injections into the eye carried out by a doctor. While the jabs can save sight, scientists have now developed a more gentle approach using eye drops which they hope patients will be able to use themselves.

The injections are usually given every one or two months for as long as necessary. Eye drops will also reduce the possible complications caused by the jabs. The scientists from Birmingham University achieved a successful approach using the drops in the eyes of rabbits and pigs, which are more similar to human eyes. The scientists have already successfully tested the eye drops in rats. The research team hope that the eye drop treatment will be available for use by humans within the next five years. The latest study demonstrates that the eye drops can deliver a therapeutically effective amount of the drug to the retina of the larger mammalian eye. The technology behind the eye drops is that of a cell-penetrating peptide which can deliver the drug to the retina at the back of the eye.

Dr Felicity de Cogan, from the Institute of Microbiology and Infections at Birmingham University said: ‘For several years our team has focused on the challenge of delivering drugs to the back of the eye. From the outset we realised that delivering drugs through eye drops would mean that patients could administer their treatment themselves and this would be less costly, save time for patients and health care providers, and reduce the potential complications that can arise from injections.’

Professor Robert Scot, Consultant Ophthalmologist and honorary Professor of Ophthalmology at Birmingham University, said: ‘Cell penetrating peptides will drive the next generation of treatment for people with age related macular degeneration. They will be transformative for patients who currently have to organise their lives around monthly clinic visits for uncomfortable intra-ocular injections, who will in the future have the convenience of self-administering their medical treatment.’

Well done the team at Birmingham University! If the drops work then the next generation will ever be thankful, for the eyes are a vital organ without which the human body will be constrained to a pitiful degree.

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