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Auburn Undergraduate Research Fellow developing new drug delivery method for glaucoma patients

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Andrew Hightaian checking a timolol maleate lens formulation after he synthesized it in lab via UV photopolymerization.

Andrew Hightaian checking a timolol maleate lens formulation after he synthesized it in lab via UV photopolymerization.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness, and it’s a disease that lacks a permanent cure. People afflicted with glaucoma have the choice of applying eye drops two to three times daily for the rest of their lives or undergoing surgery, which still may require the administration of eye drops daily.

Andrew Hightaian, a senior in chemical engineering and undergraduate research fellow, is working with his research partner Carter Lloyd under Dr. Mark Byrne to engineer a contact lens that could administer medicine to glaucoma patients automatically.

“The great part about this research is that it allows glaucoma patients to have freedom from remembering to take eye drops every few hours,” said Andrew. “These lenses would dispense the medicine, and the patient could wear them for hours or days at a time without worrying.

Right now, Andrew is working on designing a contact lens with functional monomers that could hold medicine effectively. His next step will be to determine the rate at which the experimental lenses release the medicine to diffuse across the eye.

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