Victorian researchers are designing an implant for the eye that releases drugs when a laser is shone at it. It is claimed the innovation could avert the need for patients with macular degeneration having injections. Currently, patients must have medication injected in their eye to stop the build-up of leaky blood vessels, which leads to blindness.

An implant containing medication would be implanted in the eye and an ophthalmologist would use a laser to release doses of the drug. The claimed advantage of the process is that patients would enjoy longer periods between having drugs administered with benefits to quality of life.

The implant sits dormant inside the eye until medication is required. A laser, which changes the implant's structure, is then shone on the eye. The implant is made up of lipids, which are fat-like materials that can change structures and operate like a lock-and-key system.

Further research is needed to control materials in order to get them to release the drug on demand. So far, researchers have been able to control the structure of the materials, which is vital to ensuring the right dose is released at the optimal time.

While the researchers are very optimistic, it is acknowledged that it could be more than a decade before the implant is sufficiently refined for safe and effective human use.