Sealing corneal incisions with a drop of chemistry, BU researchers develop gel for cataract surgery

(Boston) -- By introducing just the right biocompatible molecules to one another, a research team led by Mark Grinstaff, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and of chemistry at Boston University, has produced an elastic, transparent gel that sets so fast and adheres so surely to the eye's surface that it could soon become the first and best choice for sealing corneal incisions.

The substance, known as a hydrogel, promises to be a useful tool in the kit used for the most common of ophthalmic surgeries: cataract removal. Currently, 11 million such surgeries are performed worldwide annually, a figure expected to increase as the world's population grows older.

The team's findings will appear in the October 13 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens, a condition that obscures vision by gradually blocking the light that enters the eye. To remove a clouded lens, a surgeon makes a small incision in the conjunctiva, the margin between white area (tunica) and the clear area (cornea) of the outer eye. Through this tiny opening, the surgeon works to break up the lens, often by using high-frequency sound waves; extracts the destroyed lens; then implants a synthetic lens. Currently, the procedure finishes with the surgeon following one of two accepted paths: allowing the incision to seal itself or stitching the incision shut using nylon sutures.

Each closing method has its drawbacks. Self-sealing, in which the open wound closes gradually over time, carries the risk of infection as well as leakage of intraocular fluid. Suturing likewise can carry the risk of infection and inflammation, as well as the abnormal development of blood vessels, a condition known as vascularization.

To potentially stave off these post-operative complications, Grinstaff's team decided to build a biological bandage using versatile materials known as dendritic macromolecules. Ca

Contact: Ann Marie Menting
Boston University

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