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Ultrasound Can Push Drug Into The Eyeball

March 8, 2011
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An Australian ophthalmologist has developed a method of using ultrasound to deliver medication through the surface of the eye.

Not only does this allow some sufferers of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to avoid having to undergo monthly eyeball injections, but it could also be used on other parts of the body.

Yes, we did say “eyeball injections.” One form of AMD, known as “wet” AMD because it involves leakage from tiny blood vessels in the eye, can be treated with a drug that hinders the growth of the abnormal blood vessels that cause the leakages. The drug is injected directly into the eye, sometimes as often as monthly.

Said ophthalmologist Harry Unger, MBBS, of Melbourne, in a colossal understatement:

Nobody likes to have an injection in the eye.

Dr Unger has developed the SonoEye for treating AMD, a leading cause of vision loss in people older than 60. It uses waves of ultrasound to release medicine from a gel and push it through the surface of the eye.

The procedure is relatively painless, takes just a few minutes, does not require anesthesia, and avoids the risks of infection, hemorrhage, and retinal detachment that can accompany injections.

“All of those potential side effects disappear if you can get the drug in without sticking a needle in the eye,” Dr. Unger said, as quoted by Australian Associated Press.

“The ultrasound vibrates the drug from being bound to being released and pushes it towards the surface of the eye, where the blood vessels inside the eye carry it to where it needs to be,” he said.

Testing has gone well so far. The first human trial is scheduled to begin next year.

Dr. Unger said there was “huge potential for the underlying technology” to be used in other areas of the body.

“Anything with a mucous membrane that you can get to—like the inside of the mouth, the urethra, the vagina, cervix—potentially is a local target for drugs that currently you have to give intravenously.”

Related seminar: Radiology Review

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