Team led by Indo-Canadian develops novel eyedrop to treat glaucoma
A team of researchers led by an Indo-Canadian professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) has developed a novel eyedrop using nanoparticles and a compound extracted from the marijuana plant that could optimise treatment for glaucoma in future.
The system takes a cannabis compound, cannabigerolic acid or CBGA, and places it inside nanoparticles that are infused into a hydrogel. Vikramaditya Yadav, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and biomedical engineering at UBC, is leading the project which he hopes will result in a product for patients by 2022.
Eyedrops are used to treatment multiple ailments but, Yadav pointed out, one issue that plagues them is that nearly 95% of the medication doesn’t get properly absorbed.
The hydrogel containing the cannabinoid, which has proven efficacy in glaucoma control, forms a coating on the eye. Applied at bedtime, it goes to work as the patient sleeps, gradually dissolving and penetrating deep into the organ to deliver the medicine. “All 100% of it ends up translating inside the eye,” Yadav said in an interview.
His research team looked at the cannabinoid molecule and, in parallel, the drug delivery system.
“The eye is quite a challenging environment because everything has to first go through the cornea, then the two chambers of the eye and then finally reach the back of the eye,” he said. The new system can efficiently reach the back of the eye and reduce the ocular pressure that causes damage in glaucoma, with severe cases leading to blindness.
The process facilitates “deep delivery of the drug”, with the nanoparticles acting “like miniaturised buses carrying the drug deep into the eye”.
Watch | Team led by Indo-Canadian has developed novel eyedrop for treating glaucoma
Yadav’s team is using microbes to make the cannabinoid molecule since they “multiply several orders of magnitude faster” than plants do, thus allowing the team to “industrialise the manufacture of the molecule”.
Yadav, who was born in Kitchener in the Canadian province of Ontario but grew up in Mumbai, said the inspiration for creating this unique delivery system was rooted in that Indian childhood.
During a meeting, as the team and their collaborators fretted over that question, he recalled a toothpaste he used as a child, which appeared to comprise microcrystals packed into the tube. That memory caused him to consider “embedding nanoparticles into gel”.
Glaucoma is caused when the eye does not drain normally and the resultant pressure caused by the fluid buildup finally reaches the dead-end at the back of the eye and damages cells and neurons, often leading to blindness. It’s considered the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world and affects nearly 12 million people in India.
The project undertaken by Yadav began in 2015 and is in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company in the Vancouver area. It has brought in specialists such as polymer scientists. He is hopeful that testing of the drops on humans can begin by the end of next year.
Yadav said given the manner in which the molecule is produced using bacteria, it will prove “affordable and economical” once it reaches the market. And while this particular process is focused on glaucoma, the system could be leveraged in future for the delivery of drops related to other eye ailments.