4 New Visual Devices that Combat Macular Degeneration

4 New Visual Devices that Combat Macular Degeneration

Several new devices are currently being used to combat macular degeneration in clinical trials with some already making it into the mainstream medical community.

Sometimes, if disease progresses there is nothing that can be done to reverse or even slow its march. When it comes to macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness, there is more hope than ever as medical and technological advancement continues to progress.

Each year groundbreaking research, from pharmaceuticals to stem cell success, slowly chip away at combating this disease. Alongside this research is the industry of visual devices which also remains on the cutting edge. Various state-of-the-art implants and detection devices are giving doctors a leg-up when treating macular degeneration.

These 4 new visual devices that combat macular degeneration offer a variety of ways at detecting potential development or restoring as much vision as possible for those struggling with this disease.

Implantable Miniature Telescope – “A New Beginning”

Recently, development of contact lenses containing a miniature telescope was reported as one of the next additions to adjunct visual aids. Now, this technology is capable of being surgically implanted in the eyes of those who have lost their central vision from late stage macular degeneration. Kentucky’s Wav3 News reported on a patient who experienced the implant describing that the operation “widens the image behind the blind spot in her eye, leaving the other eye to fill in peripheral vision.”

Ophthalmologists are responding to the continued success of IMT surgery. Dr. Andrew Steele of Bennett & Bloom Eye Centers in Kentucky said, “It looks like science fiction. But now in a population where there hasn’t been hope we can offer something,” Co-eye-surgeon Dr. Lawrence Tenkman added, “It can really be a game changer for people with bad macular degeneration,”

Known as the implantable miniature telescope (IMT), John’s Hopkins reported that,

“The Implantable Miniature Telescope is the first surgical intervention approved for patients with end-stage AMD. [] The telescope implant is an intraocular visual prosthetic device, which is inserted into the lens capsule during cataract extraction in lieu of a traditional IOL (intraocular lens). The power of the miniature telescope helps to magnify images two to three times their original size with the goal of improving the central vision in one eye of patients with moderate to profound visual impairment.”

Occupational therapy is required for patients who receive the IMT. It could take several weeks to train patients on how to control the finite mechanics of seeing with this device. Most of all, IMT surgery is bringing hope to people like ninety year-old Dorothy Long from Louisville, Kentucky who commented after having the surgery,

“You don’t ever get over missing being able to see anything you want to see. This is like a new beginning for me,”

Artificial Intelligence Algorithm 

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming a peripheral way of life. From voice activated technology to self-driving cars we are becoming a society relying on the speed and convenience of using AI for more and more activities. It turns out that AI is not just for convenience as it is also used in the medical industry.

Dr. Michael Abramoff, a practicing ophthalmologist at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and the Iowa City VA Health Care System has been working on developing AI technology called IDx-DR for various eye diseases starting with diabetic retinopathy.

Abramoff’s AI has the ability to decipher minutely subtle signs (undetectable to the human eye) using software based algorithms that identify medical images for progression of future development of disease. Currently this technology is showing great promise for those vulnerable to vision loss as a result of diabetes. It is hoped that the same application can be applied to macular degeneration, glaucoma and other diseases.

Abramoff commented,

“Too many patients go blind needlessly because they aren’t diagnosed in time,…If we can put IDx-DR in the hands of primary care providers, it has the potential to increase early detection so that patients with disease can be referred to a specialist for treatment.”

Opti-Tech Rapid Screening

Early detection is key and using AI algorithms can have a significant impact on some macular degeneration development but others may not have the privilege or time of such detection. This is one reason a University of Manchester ‘spin-out’ company called MuMac has “developed a ‘unique’ optical technology for the rapid screening of eye diseases in a bid to improve the health of a growing and aging population” according to a report by News Medical Life Sciences.

It is an instrument called RapiDA which, as described by MuMac, “provides a fast test that can detect early-stage Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – often before any obvious biological changes can be detected with imaging devices.”

The best part about this device is that it is small and works fast, able to identify AMD susceptibility within five to ten minutes.

Learning from Octopuses

Another screening device that shows great promise at combating macular degeneration is a new technology developed by researchers from the University of Bristol, UK. It was during research of octopuses, cuttlefish and coral reef fish which are able to see polarized light while humans cannot.

HospiaMedica reports that,

“The device is based on an entoptic phenomenon that allows certain people to perceive polarization of light as a yellow horizontal bar or bow-tie shape visible in the center of the visual field, typically occupying roughly 3–5 degrees of vision. The direction of light polarization is perpendicular to the yellow bar; fainter bluish or purplish areas may be visible.”

Lead researcher Shelby Temple, PhD, from the university’s School of Biological Sciences commented on the research as reported by Healio Ocular Surgery News

“What I was seeing was an effect known as Haidinger’s brushes, which happens within the eye when people perceive polarized light. The ability to see this phenomenon is linked to an aspect of eye health and can be an early indicator of disease,”

This technology is another example of the many research teams working fervently  toward slowing macular degeneration in the hopes to buy more time to find a cure. With so many great minds at work it is only a matter of time before a successful outcome arises, eradicating this and many other currently incurable diseases.