Patients with certain eye conditions like glaucoma suffer from fluctuating intraocular pressure. There are devices to measure the pressure but none to regulate the pressure within the eye.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Microsystems 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 micro liters per second.
It can moisturize the eye or drain intraocular fluid depending on the disease and to prevent scar in tissues, the eye's natural drainage pathways are used.
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.
"This way, we can spare the patient from the strain of multiple follow-up procedures, and can preserve the ability to see over a longer timeframe and, in the best case scenario, completely prevent blindness," says Christoph Jenke, Project Manager at EMFT.