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NIH Grants Funding to Glaucoma Treatment Research at S&T

NIH Grants Funding to Glaucoma Treatment Research at S&T

August 03, 2023

A professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), who is leading groundbreaking research in glaucoma treatments, has recently received the prestigious National Institutes of Health's R01 grant. This grant will allocate $2.5 million in funding over the span of the next five years to support his dedicated research team.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that glaucoma ranks as the second-leading cause of blindness worldwide, affecting approximately three million Americans.

The condition leads to elevated eye pressure, which gradually damages the optic nerve, as explained by Yang. To manage the disease, most patients are currently prescribed daily eye drops to alleviate pressure and mitigate symptoms.

However, Yang and his team of researchers have developed a groundbreaking treatment that could potentially reduce the frequency of eye drop usage to once per week while achieving enhanced efficacy compared to existing regimens. Yang's expertise in glaucoma treatments spans over 14 years, during which he has refined multiple versions of eye drop medications.

“There is no cure so far for the disease, but the research we are conducting should make a significant difference for patients,” sais Dr. Hu Yang, S&T’s Doshi Endowed Department Chair of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.

The key to Yang's treatment lies in a specialized nanoparticle delivery system that significantly enhances the delivery of ophthalmic medications into the eye. Unlike current eye drops, which only manage to reach about 2% of the targeted location, the new formulation allows for the delivery of multiple types of medication. These medications will address both drainage blockages in the eyes and reduce the production of aqueous humor, a fluid that contributes to intraocular pressure.

While the current National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant project extends for five years, Yang's previous work on various iterations of the treatment enables the possibility of initiating clinical trials before the present project concludes.

“This treatment should make a significant difference for patients with glaucoma, so we obviously would like to see them benefit from it as soon as possible,” he said. “We have worked on this for several years and are highly optimistic about its potential efficacy.”

Additional researchers involved in the project comprise Dr. Xiaorong Liu, a retina cell biologist, and her team from the University of Virginia, alongside Dr. Christopher Leffler, an ophthalmologist affiliated with Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.