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Researchers develop diabetic retinopathy tool

Retinal sleep lamp aims to reduce the need for laser treatment or surgery for those with diabetic retinopathy

person sleeping
Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University are developing a tool which aims to reduce the need for lasers or surgery in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

The project, which is funded by a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher, sees researchers work in partnership with medical device development company Joe Lights Limited to design and test a retinal sleep lamp. 

Diabetes is recognised as a growing public health problem in the UK, with it estimated that five million people will be diagnosed with the disease by 2025. Of the three million people currently diagnosed with diabetes in the UK, 80% are expected to develop diabetic retinopathy, which can cause sight loss. 

A prototype of the sleep lamp, which has been developed by Joe Lights Limited, is designed to illuminate the eyelids during sleep. A tiny portion of the light passes through the closed eyelid to reduce retinal hypoxia, a condition where the amount of oxygen reaching the retinal cells is reduced in the darkness. This results in damage to the small retinal vessels and can lead to diabetic retinopathy. 

Dr Xinhua Shu, from the university’s School of Health and Life Sciences, is working in partnership with the director of Joe Lights, Dr Josef Tainsh, to develop light-emitting diodes in the lamps which target the light-sensitive photoreceptor cells without disturbing a person’s sleep. 

Dr Shu said: “This project is innovative because, if the results prove positive, it will offer a cheap and easy-to-use tool in the fight against retinopathy and may help prevent the need for more invasive types of therapy such as laser treatment, injections and surgery."