Chemically modified glass could be used in spectacles and contact lenses to improve vision in patients with retinitis pigmentosa, according to new research.
Scientists in the US used the modified glass to convert ultraviolet (UV) light –which is not detectable by the human eye– to visible light, enhancing visual performance in zebrafish.
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame covered glass with the chemical elements terbium and europium or with optical nanoparticles to alter the way the material reacted to light.
When UV light was applied to this modified material, known as luminescence glass, it was converted into visible light, essentially increasing the amount of light detectable by the eye.
The researchers observed that the glass increased the amount of visible light provided to photoreceptor cells in the eyes of zebrafish with retinal injuries that closely mimic the incurable human retinitis pigmentosa.
Ulster University optometry lecturer, Dr Raymond Beirne, who was not involved with the study, told OT that he believed that the principle could be used to treat retinal degeneration in humans.
Dr Beirne commented: “It will be very interesting to see if these methods can be developed for use in human research trials, as this could provide a cost-effective way of improving vision in millions of people suffering with retinal disease.”
An estimated 31,000 people in the UK are affected by retinitis pigmentosa.
The team will now carry out translational studies in the hope of developing optical devices to treat retinal degeneration in humans.
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