Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have developed a new nanowafer that could one day revolutionize how you care for patients in need of topical drug therapy.

Investigators set out to see if a slow-release delivery system could improve treatment for corneal neovascularization (CNV) due to ocular burns in mouse eyes. They used a nanowafer (a tiny circular disc 2mm in diameter and 100µm thick) made of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a water-soluble polymer used in artificial tears. The researchers found PVA to be nonstimulatory and nonimmunogenic—an important factor when trying to deliver drugs without disrupting the cornea’s natural healing process. The polymer also dissolves after the predetermined period of drug release. 

Results revealed a nanowafer loaded with 5µg of the antiangiogenic drug axitinib, delivered once a day, was more effective in inhibiting CNV compared with axitinib eye drops delivered twice a day (10µg total). After 10 days of treatment, the nanowafer-treated cornea closely resembled the healthy uninjured cornea. 

“Development of a nanowafer drug delivery system that can be readily instilled on the ocular surface by the patient’s fingertip without any clinical procedure will be not only very convenient but also most desirable for treating eye injuries, infections, chronic dry eye, glaucoma and other ocular inflammatory conditions,” the researchers concluded. 

Also, they’re hopeful this device can move through human clinical trials in a timely manner, considering the materials and drugs they used in this study are already in clinical use. 

Yuan X, Marcano D, Shin C, et al. Ocular drug delivery nanowafer with enhanced therapeutic efficacy. ACS Nano. 2015;9(2):1749–1758.