Scientists from Purdue University in the U.S have developed a new smart drainage device that may help minimize the effects of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a type of eye disorders that cause damage to the optic nerve, affecting the peripheral vision. Surgical implants and medications have been the only ways to save the eyesight of patients with glaucoma. However, these treatments offer varying impact on the improvement of vision and on relieving the pressure buildup inside the eye.
While implantable glaucoma drainage devices have gained increasing popularity over the years, unfortunately 50% of devices stop working after five years of implantation due to ‘biofouling’, a condition where microorganisms start to accumulate on the device during or after implantation.
According to Hyowon Lee, who led the research team, the newly developed device uses advances in micro-technology that can combat the accumulation of microorganisms on the device. The ability to clear bio-buildup is a giant leap towards personalized medicine, he added.
Built with microactuators, the smart implant vibrates when a magnetic field is introduced. The vibration, then loosen the biomaterials that may have built up within the tube, allowing them to be flushed out with fluids. The researchers explained that the introduction of magnetic field from outside the body will give the device a refresh, which would not only be more reliable but could also be customizable. Their on-demand technology will enable for a more effective and safer implant for the treatment of glaucoma, Lee said.
In addition, the device has the ability to change its flow resistance. Unlike other implants, the new smart drainage device can be tailored for specific patients and keep it updated as the stages of glaucoma changes over time. A paper on the research studies was published in the recent issue of journal Microsystems and Nanoengineering. Although there is no mention of when the technology will be available in the market, it is more than just a lab project.
The researchers are seeking patent of the technology and approaching companies to license it. If they receive the approval, the new smart drainage device could become the most reliable for patients with glaucoma who have otherwise settled for temporary solutions.