While measuring the intraocular pressure can help diagnose and track a number of health conditions (especially, glaucoma), there’s currently no existing method that can regulate the pressure within the eye. So while there are ways to delay the onset of serious symptoms, patients with certain eye conditions eventually suffer from an either too high or too low pressure within the eye. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Microsysems and Modular Solid State Technologies in Germany are now working on an implant that may be able to maintain the intraocular pressure within predefined limits, helping patients to continue seeing well for years longer.
The microfluidic implantable system has a pressure gauge and a tiny pump that can push liquids in and out. The pressure gauge regulates when the pump should operate and in which direction, while an on-board battery powers the pump to move intraocular fluids. The current prototype pump is 7x7x1 millimeters in dimensions and is made of silicon, able to move 30 microliters per second.
Depending on the disease, it can moisturize the eye or drain intraocular fluid. Fraunhofer experts use the eye’s natural drainage pathways so that no scar tissue forms. Monitoring at regular intervals, based on a conventional eye pressure measurement ,the attending physician can set the volume of fluid to the desired level on an outpatient basis. In the long term, plans call for combining the system with an implantable sensor, so that fluids can be regulated automatically.
Not only is this new treatment approach gentler on the patient,it also offers added advantages: eye pressure can be set at a considerably more precise level than with pharmaceutical-based therapies or surgical intervention. Until now, phthisis bulbi inevitably led to blindness, and on top of this, the eye was typically removed for cosmetic reasons.