To develop a clinically feasible and practical therapy for multi-ocular protection following ocular injury by using a thermosensitive drug delivery system (DDS) for sustained delivery of TNF-α and VEGF inhibitors to the eye.
A thermosensitive, biodegradable hydrogel DDS (PLGA-PEG-PLGA triblock polymer) loaded with 0.7mg of adalimumab and 1.4 mg of aflibercept was injected subconjunctivally in Dutch-belted pigmented rabbits after corneal alkali injury. The polymer was tuned to transition from liquid to gel upon contact with body temperature without need of a catalyst. Control rabbits received 2mg of IgG loaded DDS or 1.4mg aflibercept loaded DDS. Animals were followed for 3 months and assessed for tolerability and prevention of corneal neovascularization (NV), improvement of corneal re-epithelialization, inhibition of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) and optic nerve axon loss, and inhibition of immune cell infiltration into the cornea. Drug release kinetics was assessedin vivousing aqueous humor protein analysis.
A single subconjunctival administration of dual anti-TNFα/anti-VEGF DDS achieved sustained 3-month delivery of antibodies to the anterior chamber, iris, ciliary body, and retina. Administration after corneal alkali burn suppressed CD45+immune cell infiltration into the cornea, completely inhibited cornea NV for 3 months, accelerated corneal re-epithelialization and wound healing, and prevented RGC and optic nerve axon loss at 3 months. In contrast, anti-VEGF alone or IgG DDS treatment led to persistent corneal epithelial defect, increased infiltration of CD45+immune cells into the cornea, and significant loss of RGCs and optic nerve axons at 3 months. Aqueous humor protein analysis showed first-order release kinetics without adverse effects at the injection site.
Sustained concomitant inhibition of TNF-α and VEGF using a biodegradable, slow-release thermosensitive DDS provides significant ocular protection and prevents corneal neovascularization and irreversible damage to retina and optic nerve after corneal alkali injury. This therapeutic approach has the potential to dramatically improve the outcomes of severe ocular injuries in patients.