Eye drops to stop blindness?

Millions of patients battling the most common cause of blindness could soon be spared the pain of eye injections.

For scientists today moved a step closer to developing revolutionary eye drops for age-related macular degeneration.

Tests have already shown they can work on rats but now researchers have proven the pain-free method can work on larger mammals. 

AMD is currently treated with painful drug injections directly into the eye, which leaves patients at risk of tearing and infections.

However Birmingham University researchers have discovered a way of delivering the same drug using eye drops instead of a needle. 

Scientists today moved a step closer to developing revolutionary eye drops for age-related macular degeneration

The drops contain substances that are capable of penetrating the cells of the eye to harmlessly deliver the drug.   

Lab trials on rats last year revealed the eye drops possessed a similar therapeutic effect as the injected drugs.

The new study was conducted in the larger eyes of rabbits and pigs, considered to be more similar to that of humans.

Biochemists led by Dr Felicity de Cogan discovered the eye drops could deliver an effective amount of the drugs to the retinas.

US-based firm Macregen Inc owns the patents for the eye drops.

Further trials are needed before clinical trials on humans are approved, but it is hoped they could begin next spring. 


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition that leads to a gradual loss of central vision.

It is the most common cause of visual impairment in the UK and US.

AMD causes central vision to become blurred resulting in symptoms such as difficulty reading and problems recognising people’s faces.

It occurs when the macular – the part of the eye responsible for central vision – stops functioning effectively.

AMD usually affects both eyes, but the speed of progression can vary between eyes.

It is thought to be triggered by aging, smoking and genetics.

Dr de Cogan 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 can administer their treatment themselves.

‘This would be less costly, save time for patients and healthcare providers, and reduce the potential complications that can arise from injections.’

Keith Roizman, founder of Macregen, said: ‘We will also pursue the necessary and required regulatory programmes to make these eye drops available to patients.’ 

Professor Robert Scott, a consultant ophthalmologist and honorary professor of ophthalmology at Birmingham University, welcomed the study.

He said: ‘Cell-penetrating peptides will drive the next generation of treatment for people with AMD.

‘They will be transformative for patients who currently have to organise their lives around monthly clinic visits for uncomfortable intraocular injections.’   

The research was published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 

AMD affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and nearly two million in the US, but it is predicted this figure could rise sharply due to an ageing population.

It is a painless condition that causes people to gradually lose their central vision in both eyes. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk