Scientists have long suspected the usefulness of nanodiamonds as mechanisms for targeted medication delivery due to their microscopic, safe nature—thanks to their carbon makeup—along with their unique tendency for fluorescence. UCLA School of Dentistry researchers from the Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology have incorporated timolol maleate—a common eyedrop to help manage glaucoma—with nanodiamond contact lenses to regulate drug delivery to eyes and reduce side effects associated with eyedrops.
Glaucoma is characterized by increased intraocular pressure that builds up due to blockage or damage of mesh network that drains fluid in the eye. Fluid accumulation can damage the optic nerve over time, if unrelieved, and can cause blindness within a few years, if untreated. Timolol maleate eyedrops are a type of beta-blocker that reduces intraocular pressure by decreasing the amount of fluid secreted into the eye and constricts blood vessels around eyes so that less fluid is filtered into the eye.
In most cases, only about 5 percent of timolol actually reaches the intended site. In other cases, too much medication is absorbed incurring systemic involvement that causes side effects with respiratory and/or cardiac implications, including arrhythmia. To ensure steady medication release over time, the UCLA researchers have integrated timolol maleate with nanodiamonds then affixed them to contact lenses. Drug delivery is triggered by lysozyme—enzyme found in tears—so that timolol is released steadily over a period of time and not released at all when the nanodiamond contact lenses are not in use.
Added benefits include longer durability of the lenses, compared to their regular counterparts on the market, due to the crystalline carbon structure of the nanodiamonds, without affecting optical clarity, lens permeability to oxygen, and water content, so that wearer comfort is maintained.
Nanodiamond contact lenses are one example of increasing incorporation of nanotechnology into medicine, with tremendous potential for optimal glaucoma management—an important protective step for a disease with no current cure.