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Micro-implant could revolutionize cataract surgery, glaucoma treatment

Posted On 2014 Jun 19
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A micro-implant designed to monitor eye health could help those with a risk for glaucoma. ©Jacek Bieniek/shutterstock.com

A micro-implant designed to monitor eye health could help those with a risk for glaucoma. ©Jacek Bieniek/shutterstock.com

(Relaxnews) – An innovative high tech information center for the eye is in the works, and it’s not Google Glass. Engineers at the University of Washington have designed a pressure sensor to detect conditions in the eyes that could lead to glaucoma.

The low-pressure sensor is a micro-chip that attaches to a surgically implanted, artificial lens. The sensor provides instantaneous pressure tracking, transmitted wirelessly using radio waves.

A thin circular antenna in the lens, roughly the same circumference of the iris, powers the sensor, which communicates with a nearby receiver should a change in pressure occur.

According to researchers, cataract surgery is the right moment for implantation.

“The implementation of the monitoring device has to be well-suited clinically and must be designed to be simple and reliable,” says Tueng Shen, a collaborator and UW professor of ophthalmology. “We want every surgeon who does cataract surgeries to be able to use this.”

Cataract surgery often involves replacing a malfunctioning natural optic lens with an artificial one. Adding the pressure sensor to the artificial lens could save the patient from future operations, according to researchers.

“No one has ever put electronics inside the lens of the eye, so this is a little more radical,” said Karl Böhringer, a UW professor of electrical engineering and of bioengineering. “We have shown this is possible in principle. If you can fit this sensor device into an intraocular lens implant during cataract surgery, it won’t require any further surgery for patients.”

If the treatment seems invasive, researchers are optimistic about its potential to save patients’ vision, since glaucoma is known to progress rapidly and its painless symptoms often pass unnoticed until the field of vision is reduced.

“Oftentimes damage to vision is noticed late in the game, and we can’t treat patients effectively by the time they are diagnosed with glaucoma,” Shen said. “Or, if medications are given, there’s no consistent way to check their effectiveness.”

Contrary to popular belief, glaucoma is not one but a group of diseases. They damage the optic nerve and lead to blindness.

The only tests currently available for glaucoma require a medical visit, obliging those at risk to see their doctor several times per year.

The research was published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.

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