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Implant and smartphone team up to treat glaucoma

September 2, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Researchers at Stanford University have developed a novel way to treat glaucoma that uses a tiny eye implant and a smartphone, notes a study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

As the second most common cause of blindness, glaucoma is currently treated by lowering the internal optic pressure (IOP) in the eye. Treatment requires pressure readings to be taken at regular intervals, but IOP can vary from day to day or even hour to hour.

Stephen Quake, a professor of bioengineering and of applied physics at Stanford, and ophthalmologist Yossi Mandel of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, have designed a tiny eye implant consisting of a tube open at one end and fitted with a small bulb filled with gas at the other end.

Interactions between the fluids in the eye and the gas produce a pressure reading. Patients could then use a special smartphone app to snap a picture of the instrument, thereby recording, at different time intervals, the IOP.

"For me, the charm of this is the simplicity of the device," Quake said in a press release. "Glaucoma is a substantial issue in human health. It's critical to catch things before they go off the rails, because once you go off, you can go blind. If patients could monitor themselves frequently, you might see an improvement in treatments."