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Sweet solution for drug-administering contact lenses

A German-Israeli research team has secured €1m (£866,000) to develop contact lenses for drug delivery that incorporate liposomes and sugar

Contact lens

A fictional, umbrella-carrying magic nanny may not be the first person you would turn to for medical advice, but a new development by a German-Israeli research team lends substance to the Mary Poppins lyric A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP) are working to develop long-wearing contact lenses capable of releasing medicine alongside several German and Israeli partners.

The contact lenses will incorporate sugars to improve the comfort and effectiveness of the lenses, while a liposome coating on the inside of the lens will contain the drug and release it over time.

The research project has received around €1m (£866,000) in funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The three-year project will run until July 2021.

Dr Ruben Rosencrant, from the Fraunhofer IAP, highlighted that sugars play a key role in the contact lenses.

“Sugars act as lubricants at different locations in our bodies. In the eye’s mucous layer, for example, they enable the eyelid to glide smoothly,” he said.

“In order to achieve precisely this effect with contact lenses, we have developed polymers with a high sugar content, so-called glycopolymers. They coat the entire surface of the contact lens, but they can also be structural components of the liposomes carrying the drug,” Dr Rosencrant explained.