Fenofibrate-Loaded Biodegradable Nanoparticles for the Treatment of Experimental Diabetic Retinopathy and Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Mol Pharm. 2019 May 6;16(5):1958-1970. doi: 10.1021/acs.molpharmaceut.8b01319. Epub 2019 Mar 26.


Fenofibrate is a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα) agonist and has been shown to have therapeutic effects on diabetic retinopathy (DR). However, the effects of fenofibrate through systemic administration are not as potent as desired due to inefficient drug delivery to the retina. The present study aimed to explore the sustained therapeutic effects of fenofibrate-loaded biodegradable nanoparticles (NP) on both DR and neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Fenofibrate was successfully encapsulated into poly(lactic- co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) NP (Feno-NP), and Feno-NP were optimized by varying polymer composition to achieve high drug loading and prolonged drug release. The Feno-NP made of PLGA 34 kDa demonstrated a drug content of 6% w/w and a sustained drug release up to 60 days in vitro. Feno-NP (PLGA 34 kDa) was selected for following in vivo studies, and one single intravitreal (IVT) injection of Feno-NP into rat eyes with a 30G fine needle maintained sustained fenofibric acid drug level in the eye for more than 60 days. The efficacy of Feno-NP in DR and neovascular AMD was investigated using streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats, laser-induced choroidal neovascularization (CNV) rats, and very low-density lipoprotein receptor knockout ( Vldlr -/-) mice. Therapeutic effects of Feno-NP were evaluated by measuring electroretinogram (ERG), retinal vascular leakage, leukostasis, CNV size, and retinal levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and intracellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1). In diabetic rats, Feno-NP ameliorated retinal dysfunctions, reduced retinal vascular leakage, inhibited retinal leukostasis, and downregulated the overexpression of VEGF and ICAM-1 at 8 weeks after one IVT injection. In addition, Feno-NP reduced retinal vascular leakage and CNV formation in both CNV rats and Vldlr -/- mice. Moreover, no toxicity of Feno-NP or Blank-NP to retinal structure and function was detected. Feno-NP exhibited good physiochemical characteristics and controlled drug release profile, conferring prolonged beneficial effects on DR and neovascular AMD.

Keywords: PLGA; PPARα; age-related macular degeneration; diabetic retinopathy; nanoparticle; ocular neovascularization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capillary Permeability
  • Choroidal Neovascularization / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / drug therapy*
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Drug Liberation
  • Fenofibrate / analogs & derivatives*
  • Fenofibrate / chemistry
  • Fenofibrate / pharmacokinetics
  • Fenofibrate / therapeutic use
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / chemistry
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1 / metabolism
  • Leukostasis / drug therapy
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Polylactic Acid-Polyglycolic Acid Copolymer / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BN
  • Retina / drug effects
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Streptozocin / adverse effects
  • Streptozocin / pharmacology
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism
  • Wet Macular Degeneration / drug therapy*


  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • vascular endothelial growth factor A, rat
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Polylactic Acid-Polyglycolic Acid Copolymer
  • Streptozocin
  • fenofibric acid
  • Fenofibrate