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Research

Cannabis eye drops could treat glaucoma during sleep

07/05/2018By Matthew Woodley • Staff Journalist
Cannabinoid-based eye drops could one day be used to treat glaucoma patients while they sleep, according to research emanating from the University of British Columbia.

The medicated hydrogel eye drops are filled with thousands of nanoparticles containing cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), and are designed to be applied before sleep, where it is said they form a lens on the eye. The nanoparticles then slowly dissolve during the night and penetrate the cornea, allowing the medication to reach the back of the eye.

“Medicated eye drops are commonly used to treat glaucoma but they’re often poorly absorbed. Less than 5% of the drug stays in the eye because most of the drops just roll off the eye,” lead researcher Professor Vikramaditya Yadav said.


"Medicated eye drops are commonly used to treat glaucoma but they’re often poorly absorbed."
Professor Vikramaditya Yadav, lead researcher

“Even when the drug is absorbed, it may fail to reach the back of the eye, where it can start repairing damaged neurons and relieving the pressure that characterises glaucoma.”

The formula was tested on donated pig corneas, where it was found to absorb rapidly and reach the back of the eye. According to the researchers, previous studies have shown that cannabinoids like CBGA can be effective in relieving glaucoma symptoms, but no cannabis-based eye drops have been developed because cannabinoids don’t easily dissolve in water.

However, the researchers were able to overcome this issue via the development of their hydrogel formula.

“By suspending CBGA in a nanoparticle-hydrogel composite, we have developed what we believe is the first cannabinoid-based eye drops that effectively penetrate through the eye to treat glaucoma,” study co-author Mr Syed Haider Kamal said.

“This composite could also potentially be used for other drugs designed to treat eye disorders like infections or macular degeneration.”

Researchers are now working to scale up the hydrogel production and develop more anti-glaucoma cannabinoid molecules, using genetically engineered microbes. The study was published in the journal Drug Delivery & Translational Research.

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