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February 28, 2008

Auburn engineering research leads to medical uses for contact lenses

Contact lenses - the small marvel long appreciated by the vision-impaired as being more worry-free than eyeglasses, may soon serve as a drug delivery mechanism designed to provide relief from eye irritations and diseases.

Researchers in Auburn University's Department of Chemical Engineering have developed a technology proven in laboratory testing to enable the contact lens to hold medication in concentrated, renewable doses and release the drug in a controlled, timed and targeted manner.

The result may be a significant improvement over the use of drops and ointments, says the lead investigator, Mark Byrne, an AU assistant professor of chemical engineering. "About 90 percent of the field of topical ocular medications is in the form of eye drops, so predominantly what our technology can do is take the place of those eye drops," Byrne said. "You don't have to take the drops many times of day. You can just put the lens in and it will release the drug at a slow rate."

While other research has been performed on this topic, Byrne and his team are the only group to efficiently produce a lens that allows an optimal amount of medication to be released in a controlled or delayed manner. "What makes our work unique is that we've been able to key in and look at the molecular structure and mimic some things that we see in biology and that has made all the difference in actually creating materials that can load a theraputic amount of drug," he said. "We can load more medication and we can actually achieve a longer rate of release than other methods that take a lot more effort and are more costly to produce." MORE

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Dr. Mark Byrne's Web site
 

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