Purpose: To describe a novel microporous drug delivery system (DDS) for sustained anti- vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) delivery to the eye and to evaluate its efficacy in a corneal injury model.
Methods: A macro-porous DDS (1.5 × 1.5 × 4 mm) loaded with 2 mg of bevacizumab was implanted subconjunctivally in three Dutch-belted pigmented rabbits after corneal alkali injury (2N NaOH). Three rabbits received sham DDS. Animals were followed for three months and assessed in vivo and ex vivo for corneal neovascularization (NV), epithelial defect, stromal scarring, endothelial cell loss, and expression of angiogenic and inflammatory markers in the cornea and retina.
Results: Anti-VEGF DDS treatment led to complete inhibition of superior cornea NV and complete corneal re-epithelialization by day 58 whereas sham DDS resulted in severe cornea NV and persistent epithelial defect (9%∼12% of total cornea area) through the end of the study. Histologically, anti-VEGF DDS significantly reduced CD45+ and F4/80 CD11b+ cell accumulation (79%, P < 0.05) in the cornea, ameliorated tumor necrosis factor-α expression (90%, P < 0.05), reduced corneal stromal scarring and prevented corneal endothelial cell loss, as compared to sham DDS. Moreover, anti-VEGF DDS achieved retinal penetration and reduction in retinal VEGF levels at 3 months.
Conclusions: Use of subconjunctival anti-VEGF DDS suppresses cornea NV, inflammation, stromal scarring, prevents endothelial cell loss, and abrogates retinal VEGF upregulation in a rabbit corneal alkali burn model. Moreover, it delivers anti-VEGF antibodies to the retina for three months. This delivery platform could enable antibody therapy of other corneal and retinal vascular pathologies.
Translational relevance: We describe a method for sustained anti-VEGF delivery to the eye for the treatment of ocular injuries.
Keywords: VEGF; angiogenesis; avastin; bevacizumab; cornea; inflammation; neovascularization; retina.
Copyright 2020 The Authors.