Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Applied Science (MASc)


Chemical Engineering


Heather Sheardown



Committee Member

David Latulippe


Despite the long history of topical eye drops and their use in delivering therapeutic agents to the anterior of the eye, efficient sustained delivery continues to be an elusive goal. The robust and effective clearance mechanisms that the eye is endowed with are significant delivery challenges and result in short drug residence times and low ocular bioavailability. The work carried out in this thesis focused on developing, synthesizing and characterizing silicone hydrogels and evaluating their potential as drug eluting inserts for more effective delivery of ocular pharmaceuticals. The first strategy (Chapter 2) focused on incorporating a novel hydrogel additive, hyaluronic acid, to promote hydrogel-drug ionic interactions that can function to increase drug loading and subsequent release dosage. Hydrogels composed of a hydrophilic monomer, N,N-dimethlacrylamide (DMA) or 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA), and a hydrophobic monomer, methacryloxypropyltris(trimethylsiloxy)silane (TRIS), were used as model contact lenses. By combining ionic interactions with molecular imprinting techniques within a single hydrogel, it was shown that this can produce a compound effect on drug uptake and release. Although greater control over release dosage was achieved, there was limited capacity for these materials to delivery timolol for extended periods with drug release occurring rapidly over a period of 1-2 days. However, there were clear differences in the release duration from the p(DMA-co-TRIS) and p(HEMA-co-TRIS) hydrogel formulations. Therefore, the second study (Chapter 3) aimed to better understand the relationship between the hydrogel chemical composition and the resultant material properties on the drug release characteristics. A range of hydrogels were synthesized with varying hydrophilic and hydrophobic monomers, which were then characterized by their water content, transparency, optical haze and surface wettability. The previous generation materials were evolved by incorporating a modified siloxy methacrylate TRIS(OH), a methacrylated polydimethylsiloxane macromonomer (mPDMS) and a polymerizable silicone surfactant (ACR). The properties of the hydrogels were dramatically affected by the nature and relative contribution of hydrophobic and hydrophilic monomers. The release of dexamethasone (DEX), an anti-inflammatory medication, was shown to vary significantly depending on the hydrogel formulations; often displaying faster release in high water content materials and slow release in low water content hydrogels. The mechanism of diffusion for lipophilic DEX in these hydrogel systems appeared to be through the internal aqueous network channels within the bulk. Over the range of hydrogels formulations that were tested, the release from them varied from approximately seven days to greater than two weeks.

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