News Releases

April 28, 2011

Newly Patented Microneedle for Ocular Drug Delivery: Smaller is Better


Media contact: Joy Bell, 404-778-3711, jbell@emory.edu


(ATLANTA) A goal of ophthalmology researchers is to deliver medication to the back of the eye in a selective and minimally invasive way. An Emory Eye Center scientist and two fellow researchers have investigated opportunities and have recently been awarded a U.S. patent for application of microneedle technology, designed to do just that. Filed for in 2007 and awarded in April 2011, the patent (US 7,918,814) was awarded to Henry F. Edelhauser, Emory Eye Center’s former director of research, along with Mark Prausnitz, professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Ninghao Jiang, a research graduate student at Georgia Tech, now employed at CNA, a non-profit research organization in Virginia.

Because the microneedle apparatus is so much smaller than currently used intravitreal needles, there may be less discomfort for the patients. Many patients with age-related macular degeneration have injections on a regular basis. In the future, the same microneedle technology may be used to inject medication directly into the eye for many other ocular conditions, such as glaucoma, eliminating the need to put drops in the eyes every day—a real chore for some patients.

“The beauty of this hollow-tubed microneedle is that it can serve as a route for targeted drug delivery for retinal disease using an array of delivery suspensions such as microbeads and microbubbles,” says Edelhauser. “Moreover, a sustained delivery can be achieved with proper formulation design. In the future, this new process should be helpful in the treatment of several ocular diseases.”

“As Dr. Edelhauser and I initially conceived of a trans-scleral route to get drugs to the retina in the early 1990s, both of our research has now explored to advantages of the suprachoroidal space, a unique location within the eye that may well serve to safely deliver specific medications with broad ophthalmic applications,” says Timothy Olsen, Emory Eye Center director. “The microneedle technology, developed by Edelhauser and Prausnitz may prove to be the safest and most effective path to this important space in the eye.”

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