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Scientists take lessons from butterflies to construct glaucoma eye implant

Translucent wings have provided inspiration for an eye implant that flexes with increasing eye pressure

Butterfly

Shaped like a tiny drum, a new eye implant inspired by butterfly wings could help to monitor intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients.

The implant is the width of a few strands of hair and flexes with increasing eye pressure.

Its cavity depth can be measured with a handheld reader to give clinicians a direct measurement of how much pressure the implant is under.

Writing in Nature nanotechnology, the authors described how the transparent photonic nanostructure of the implant is inspired by the longtail glasswing butterfly.

The wings of these insects have unique optical properties, with almost no reflection of light from the wing’s surface.

This special structure means that the wings are clearer than if they had been made of glass.

Caltech assistant professor, Hyuck Choo, explained that this insight has helped scientists to reduce the error rate of readings from the implant.

“The nanostructures unlock the potential of this implant, making it practical for glaucoma patients to test their own eye pressure every day,” Professor Choo shared.

The implant was tested in New Zealand white rabbits. Results showed that the device reduced the mean IOP measurement variation when compared with conventional rebound tonometry.