Blind World

New gel could help sight.

September 25, 2003.

A gel-like material being developed by American scientists could someday be used to replace hardened eye lenses in middle-aged and older people.

The material, still being tested in the lab, is a hydrophobically modified hydrogel. Many extended wear contact lenses are made with hydrogels.

Help for presbyopia sufferers

The scientists at the VA Hospital and Washington University in St. Louis say this new material could eventually help millions of people who suffer from presbyopia. This condition affects almost everyone after they reach about 40 to 45 years old.

It's believed that, as people age, their eye lenses slowly harden, making it more difficult for them to focus on nearby objects. Most people need reading glasses or contact lenses to correct the problem. Even those who have corrective laser eye surgery often still require glasses to read and to focus on nearby objects.

Made to match a young healthy lens

Our idea is that if we can remove the lens and put in a material that is soft, like a young healthy lens is at age 20, then they would have their accommodative ability restored. They would be able to focus on near and far objects, researcher Madalene Fetsch says in a news release.

The gels can be made soft to the touch and have viscoelastic properties similar to that of the natural human lens. At the same time, our material so far looks like it has the potential to be injectable, which means less invasive surgery, Fetsch says.

Animal testing on the material may begin in about a year.

The research was presented Sept. 8 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New York City. - (HealthDayNews)

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