Transscleral Iontophoresis for Noninvasive Ocular Drug Delivery of Macromolecules

Sarah Molokhia, Kongnara Papangkorn, Charlotte Butler, John W. Higuchi, Balbir Brar, Balamurali Ambati, S. Kevin Li, and William I. Higuchi


The objectives were to investigate the effect of transscleral iontophoresis of macromolecules in vitro and in vivo, to study the importance of electroosmosis on macromolecules of low charge to mass ratio, and to evaluate transscleral iontophoresis efficacy in a choroidal neovascularization (CNV) animal model.


Through in vitro transport experiments, the permeability coefficients of macromolecules [eg, immunoglobulin G (IgG), dextran 70 kDa] were determined under different conditions. The effect of ionic strength formulations and iontophoretic conditions was studied on the distribution of IgG and bevacizumab into the eye in vivo. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was utilized to evaluate in vivo real time distribution of gadolinium-labeled albumin (Galbumin) following iontophoresis. The efficacy between no treatment, intravitreal injection (IVT), and iontophoresis of bevacizumab on a CNV model of subretinal injection of adeno-associated virus encoding human VEGF-165 was investigated.


The permeability data suggested a significant effect of ionic strength on the iontophoretic transport of macromolecules. Transscleral iontophoresis of IgG at 4 mA with a low ionic strength formulation was about 600 times greater than passive diffusion and 14-fold over a conventional formulation in vitro. Approximately 0.6 mg of bevacizumab can be delivered into the rabbit eye in vivo with a 20-min treatment of iontophoresis. MRI showed that Galbumin was in the posterior tissues after iontophoresis. In the CNV model, the iontophoresis and IVT methods of bevacizumab delayed retinal neovascularization by 4 and 8 weeks, respectively.


Transscleral iontophoresis is capable of delivering macromolecule drugs through the conjunctiva and sclera, eventually exposing the retina/choroid to the drugs.