Magnetic fluids offer hope for damaged retinas

ORLANDO, Fla., April 10 Researchers at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg are developing injectable magnetic fluids to repair torn or detached retinas a technique they believe could help prevent blindness in thousands.

Their work was reported today at the 223rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the worlds largest scientific society.

Silicone fluid is currently used to push damaged retinas back in place. A magnetized version of the fluid would make repairs easier and more precise by allowing the fluid to be moved to areas of the eye that are hard to reach, according to the researchers.

The treatment appears promising in laboratory studies, says Judy Riffle, Ph.D., head of the research team and a chemistry professor at the university. Animal studies could take place within a year and human studies could soon follow, she says.

We are the first to develop controlled magnetic nanoparticles that are appropriate to use in the eye, says Riffle. Her lab has been developing the material for the past ten years.

Tiny particles of cobalt or magnetite are enmeshed in a silicone-based fluid (polydimethylsiloxane). When exposed to an external magnetic field, the fluid can be maneuvered in much the same way that magnetic pieces are moved around in certain toys, Riffle explains.

The retina is the thin, light-sensitive layer of tissue located at the back of the eye. When it becomes detached or torn, either due to disease or injury, impaired vision results. Blindness occurs if it is not repaired.

The conventional way to repair this disorder is to inject silicone fluid or a special gas directly into the eye to push the retina back into place. In people with more severe damage, this treatment often fails because the material cannot reach certain areas of the eye, particularly the lower parts, says J. P. Dailey, M.D., an ophthalmologist with Erie Retinal Surgery in Erie, Pa., and a major collaborator in the study.


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