Electrospun Fiber May Restore Sight to the Blind

June 3, 2009

(ChattahBox)–A groundbreaking new treatment using electrospun fibers interwoven with therapeutic drugs and proteins, may one day restore sight to the blind. The fibers embedded with sight restoring agents could be surgically inserted into the retinas of patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.

University scientists achieved success in embedding the synthetic fibers with three different agents that didn’t interact with one another. Previous attempts to implant two or more drugs into the fibers were unsuccessful when the drugs would interact and essentially cancel each other out.

Scientists from Drexel and Case Western Universities pioneered a new technique of enclosing the drugs and proteins in tiny capsules, isolating them from one another. In their study, the scientists used two capsules containing bovine albumin serum and epidermal growth factor, which they embedded into the biodegradable fiber.

The drugs were also treated with fluorescent dyes that are only visible under special light. The treatment was successfully used on mice and the scientists plan to test the fibers on pigs next. Within the next three years, the scientists hope to test the treatment on humans

The way the treatment works is like is like time-release photography as each capsule breaks open and does its work before the next capsule releases its medicine.

Once the fibers are implanted into the retina, proteins in the fabric would eat away at the scar tissue created by retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. The next series of capsules capsules release growth factors to target the growth of cultured retinal progenitor cells, which would develop on the fiber. The resulting light-detecting cells would restore sight.

The synthetic fibers also have potential for use in tissue regeneration and wound healing treatments.

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