The patented bandage contact lens material could release drugs as needed to help eye abrasions heal faster. (Credit: Shutterstock)

A cross-disciplinary team has developed a new contact lens material that could act as a bandage for corneal wounds while releasing drugs in a controlled manner to help the eye heal faster.

Typically, corneal abrasion patients spend seven to 10 days wearing a clear, oxygen-permeable bandage contact lens, often instilled with eyedrops containing antibiotics. However, the one-time antibiotic application makes it difficult to ensure enough drugs stay on the eye for sustained treatment.

The new targeted-release drug-delivery system is responsive to the body. Collagen is a protein naturally found in the eye that’s also often involved in the wound healing process — however, it’s too soft and weak to be a contact lens material. The team found a way to transform gelatin methacrylate, a collagen derivative, into a biomaterial 10 times stronger.

One unique property of collagen-based materials is that they degrade when exposed to an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), which is naturally found in the eye.

The team used bovine lactoferrin as a model wound-healing drug and entrapped it in the material. In human cell culture study, the researchers achieved complete wound healing within five days using the drug-releasing novel contact lens material.

Another benefit of the material is that it only becomes activated at eye temperatures, providing an inbuilt storage mechanism.

The next step is fine-tuning the material, including entrapping different drugs in it. The scientists believe their material has great potential — not only for the eye but potentially for other body sites, especially large skin ulcers.