The space between the lens of the eye and the retina is filled with a substance called vitreous, a highly transparent jelly-like material that helps us see clearly. With age, or due to injury, the vitreous may become depleted, requiring surgical replenishment to restore vision. Current interventions have severe limitations, so a team of international researchers headed by scientists at Unviersity of Tokyo, have developed a hydrogel that may be an excellent replacement for vitreous.

 

Their oligo-TetraPEG hydrogel starts as a liquid that can be injected into the eye, but turns to a gel within about ten minutes. Such fast change in state was accomplished by combining two types of polymers in liquid, which then combine to form a gel once inside the eye.

 

Unlike many other clear hydrogels tried in the past, oligo-TetraPEG doesn’t swell much when it is around water, an important characteristic for it to be useful in surgical practice. A number of rabbits were injected with the new hydrogel to replace their natural vitreous, and their intraocular pressure remained the same compared to a control group who only had saline injections. The rabbits spent more than a year with their artificial vitreous, seemingly staying perfectly healthy and not exhibiting any signs of rejection.  Importantly, rabbits with retinal detachment, a common eye condition in the elderly, managed to recover well following treatment with the new hydrogel.

 

Read the story below to see how these scientist are working with this hydrogel to change this problem: