6 New Ways to Save Your Sight

Eye diseases leave many people with reduced vision each year. However, ongoing research and new developments continue to open exciting doors in the treatment of blinding diseases. The following six vision-saving developments are currently being tested.

Corneal Inlays

 Various forms of corneal inlays have been around for awhile.  However, new studies are being conducted on a type of inlay that may reduce or eliminate the need for reading glasses for those of us that have developed presbyopia. Presbyopia is the condition that develops around age forty that leads to reduced vision at a near point. The condition forces us to wear bifocals, progressive lenses or reading glasses. This new type of corneal inlay is a disc that is embedded inside the cornea in the non-dominant eye. It works like a camera to expand the depth of focus.


 One of the main problems when developing new eye drops to treat glaucoma is making sure enough of the drug reaches the receptor to lower eye pressure. Researchers are developing a nanodiamond embedded contact lens that delivers glaucoma medication when it interacts with a patient's tears. Nanodiamonds are actually a byproduct of the mining and refining process. They are five nanometers in diameter and look like little soccer balls. They can bind to drug compounds and are able to slowly emit the drug over a period of time.

HIV Medications

 Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people older than 60, and many of those have geographic atrophy.  A medication commonly used to treat patients who are HIV positive has been shown to prevent the progression of geographic macular degeneration. These drugs, referred to as NRTIs (nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors) are being used to block inflammation. Early studies conducted in mice is preventing progression of geographic atrophy.

3-D Printing

  A British company has developed prosthetic eyes manufactured with 3-D printing technology. They can be produced quickly, and production cost is reduced by almost 97%. The eyes are printed from powder using a Z-Corp 510 3-D printing machine. The form is then encased in resin.

Gene Therapy

 Gene therapy uses a virus to insert a gene for a common ion channel into blind cells of the retina. Photoswitches, chemicals that change shape when light hits them, are attached to these ion channels to make them open in response to light. Scientists at the University of California and at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School have invented a photoswitch gene therapy that restores light responses in degenerated retinas of mice and dogs. Their version of gene therapy uses a virus already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for other genetic therapies in the eye to deliver an ion channel gene similar to one normally found in humans and it can be adjusted to supply other photoswitches that help the retina to function normally. Gene therapy could restore some sight to patients with eye disease such as retinitis pigmentosa.


 Various companies are developing tools that are attached to an iphone to help primary care doctors, optometrists and ophthalmologists examine patients and take retinal photos to share. This technology could be used to help doctors who treat patients in mobile clinics or who work in remote areas where traditional equipment is unavailable. Retinal photos could easily be shared with other physicians to help make diagnoses. These devices could also be used for teaching optometry to medical students. It would allow learning to take place with a live view instead of looking at anatomical models.

Source:  10 Vision-Saving Advances in Medicine, Marrecca Fiore, WebMD, April 13, 2015

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