An estimated 32.3 million adult Americans have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses. When it comes to vision issues, patients typically have a handful of choices: corrective lenses, contacts, or laser eye surgery.
But what if there was a less invasive option? As it turns out, 20/20 vision could be just a drop away.
Researchers are testing multiple solutions for vision issues in the form of eye drops. If approved by the FDA, these options might eliminate the need for your specs in the future.
A nanoparticle solution
A team of ophthalmologists at Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials developed eye drops called "nanodrops" that have been found to repair the corneas and improve vision issues.
According to the research abstract, the experiment led by Dr. Smadja and his colleagues involved analyzing refractive errors in pig eyes before and after the installation of nanodrops filled with various concentrations of synthetic nanoparticles. The results showed significant improvement in error correction for both myopic (near-sightedness) and hyperopic (far-sightedness) refractive error.
Clinical trials on humans are expected to be carried out next. The process will involve a three-step system which will include measuring refraction using a smartphone app, stamping an individualized optical pattern onto the top layer of the cornea with a proprietary laser device based on that measurement, and then applying synthetic biocompatible protein nanoparticle drops to activate the stamped optical pattern, changing the trajectory of light passing through the cornea.
According to Dr. David Smadja, leader of the research team, eye drops could revolutionize ophthalmological and optometry treatments of patients suffering from myopia, hyperopia, and other refractory conditions.
“This is a new concept for correcting refractory problems,” Smadja said. He, however, did not mention how often the drops will need to be applied to replace eyeglasses completely.
A clearer future
This isn’t the first time though that the use of nanotechnology in eye drops was investigated. Increasing research in this field has opened new doors in the field of medicine and surgery. There has been significant research done already to develop nanotechnology-based systems to treat ocular diseases.
Researchers at UCL Institute of Opthalmology, London, demonstrated the possibility of creating formulations of tiny nanoparticles loaded with the AMD (age-related macular degeneration) drug Avastin. The resulting eye drops can be safely and effectively used in patients compared to injecting drugs into the eyes, which is often uncomfortable.
In another experiment, researchers from National Taiwan Ocean University developed carbon quantum dots covered with spermidine to treat bacterial eye infections. The researchers believe that the new quantum dots has a good potential to be used in eye drops to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause keratitis.
Other groups are also working on vision-correcting eye drops. One drop, AGN-190584, may be approved by the end of 2021. These eye drops are a pilocarpine solution developed to treat age-related focus issues caused by a loss of elasticity in the eyes' lenses.
According to trial results published in October 2020, the eye drops began working as soon as 15 minutes after they were applied. Of course, they'll need to be reapplied multiple times a day.
Still, a few eye drops daily definitely beats the discomfort of contact lenses. Hopefully, glasses-wearers will have some new options soon.