Hydrogel lenses can help fight incurable eye disease

Thinning of the cornea of ​​the eye can be triggered by autoimmune problems, injury during surgery, chemical burns, etc. In any case, until recently, it was considered irreversible and led to blindness. However, recent developments by scientists from the University of New Hampshire give hope for the creation of a means to combat this ailment.

The mechanism of thinning or softening of the cornea is triggered when its cells begin to uncontrollably produce special enzymes: matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Their activity directly depends on the presence of zinc ions, therefore, all previous methods of treatment were based on the binding of these ions and their removal from the cornea. Alas, the effects spread to other parts of the body, with dangerous side effects.

Scientists from New Hampshire managed to create lenses from a hydrogel, which includes the polymer 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate and the organic compound dipicolylamine. The latter substance is just capable of binding zinc ions, but the area of ​​its action is limited by the contact area of ​​the lens and the cornea. In the experiments, the scientists were able to successfully neutralize three types of MMP, while all the processes did not go beyond the lens.

The technology is currently being tested for a patent application. Commercial versions of lenses for corneal thinning should be expected over the next few years.