4. Detached retinas glued back together with hydrogels
Retinal detachment usually requires surgery to replace the gel-like substance between the retina and lens of the eye. However, a newly developed hydrogel that starts out as a liquid and turns gel-like has recently shown success for replacing the fluid and reattaching retinas.
The hydrogels have a high water content and contain substances that are similar to what is found in the soft tissues of the human body. Normal hydrogels would swell and irritate surrounding tissues over time, making them impossible for surgery. Tadamasa Sakai, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering, created a new hydrogel to combat it.
Sakai and his team created a hydrogel that has a low polymer concentration that could be injected into a rabbit’s eye as a liquid and could become a gel within 10 minutes to reattach the retina, according to a press release.
The team mixed 2 types of four-armed polymers to make highly branched polymer clusters in a liquid. The polymer clusters aggregated when they were injected into the eyes.
There were no significant differences between the swelling pressures of hydrogel-treated and salt water treatment. The rabbits showed no signs of side effects after 410 days of treatments. The study also showed that the rabbits who had retinal detachment recovered after receiving the hydrogel treatment.
Hydrogels still need to be tested in humans, but its properties could make it suitable as a space-filling gel for replacing soft tissues damaged by trauma, tumors and degenerative disease.