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Seaweed gel can treat blindness caused by retinal detachment

Seaweed gel can treat blindness caused by retinal detachment

Gel's distinctive elasticity facilitates fluid management within the eye

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(Web Desk) - Researchers from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and Dong-A University Hospital have developed an artificial vitreous body aimed at treating retinal detachment.

Their findings, published in the journal Biomaterials, introduce a solution derived from a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in algae, serving as a promising alternative to existing treatments.

Retinal detachment, a condition where the retina detaches from the eye wall, poses a significant risk of vision loss. Current treatment methods involve replacing the vitreous body with fillers, which may come with undesirable side effects.

To overcome these challenges, the research team turned to a modified form of alginate, a substance naturally found in algae known for its ability to produce thick products used in various food and medical applications.

By leveraging alginate, the researchers devised a unique gel formulation, offering a novel approach to replacing the vitreous body within the eye. The gel boasts exceptional safety and optical properties akin to those of a natural vitreous body, thereby aiding in preserving patients' eyesight post-surgery.

Its distinctive elasticity facilitates fluid management within the eye, stabilizing the retina and preventing the formation of air bubbles. To assess the gel's efficacy, the team conducted trials on rabbits, whose ocular anatomy closely resembles that of humans.

Their findings revealed that the gel effectively prevented retinal detachment, maintained ocular stability, and exhibited prolonged efficacy without encountering any adverse effects. 

Professor Hyung Joon Cha of POSTECH, who led the study, stated, “Retinal detachment is on the rise, especially in young people with severe nearsightedness. Cases in Korea rose by 50% between 2017 and 2022. Our team is committed to improving the hydrogel technology for practical use in eye care through ongoing research.”

Dong-A University Hospital’s Professor Woo Jin Jeong stated, “The global market for intraocular fillers is growing by 3% annually. We believe our hydrogel will be beneficial for future vitreoretinal surgeries.”