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A non-invasive method of long-term vision restoration was created.
Myopia, or myopia, is a very common problem in the modern world. Half a century ago, in the United States and Europe, half as many people suffered as a disease, than in our days. In East Asia, about 70-90 percent of adolescents and young people are nearsighted.
Experts believe that the boom of myopia is caused by the long stay of people in the room. According to some estimates, it should be said, not the most optimistic, by 2020 such a visual defect can affect approximately 2.5 billion people around the world, and by 2050 the number of blind people in the world could triple.
Recall that myopia is a visual defect, in which the image is formed not in the retina of the eye, but in front of it. The most common cause is an enlarged eyeball. Usually, myopia begins to manifest itself in childhood, when the visual apparatus passes through the stage of rapid growth. During this period, visual acuity often falls, and science does not yet know reliable ways to slow down the process of vision impairment.
The simplest solution to the problem is eyeglasses for correcting vision or contact lenses. Some people, also tired of having to buy and wear additional accessories, prefer to use refractive corneal surgery. (In this case, the length of the eyeball is reduced by removing part of the cornea, resulting in the image is again focused on the retina.)
However, this method is not suitable for everyone. In addition, despite the high success rates of such an operation, patients may experience postoperative complications, and in rare cases even a loss of vision occurs.
If we talk about the specific shortcomings of laser surgery for vision correction (laser keratomileusis (LASIK) and photorefractive keratectomy), then it is worth remembering that ablative technology is still used here. The latter can weaken, and in some cases, weaken the cornea. (However, even with this, doctors are learning to fight.)
While there are so many questions to surgical methods of intervention, scientists are looking for and developing alternative methods of restoring vision.
Engineer Sinisa Vukelic from Columbia University was no exception: he developed a new non-invasive method that allows to correct vision, it is said, forever. The results of preclinical studies have already shown promising results.
The new technology uses a femtosecond oscillator – an ultrafast laser that generates pulses with very low energy and high frequency.
With its help, it is possible to selectively and locally change the biochemical and biomechanical properties of the corneal tissue without damaging the cells and, consequently, destroying the tissues. The new method essentially changes the macroscopic structure of the tissue.
Technology "enough strength", to create a rarefied plasma in a given focal volume (the volume where the laser beam is focused). At the same time, the energy parameters of the laser do not allow it to cause damage to tissues that are in the region to which it affects.
What for to an eye plasma? The rarefied plasma leads to the ionization of water molecules in the cornea. Ionization in turn generates reactive oxygen – an unstable molecule that contains oxygen and reacts easily with other molecules in the cell.
Reactive oxygen forces "threads" of collagen in the cornea "sew" (protein molecules form chemical bonds). A selective introduction using a laser like "knots" in the collagen linen leads to a change in the mechanical properties of corneal tissue in the treated areas. And ultimately this leads to changes in the overall macrostructure of the cornea.
The process is photochemical, and therefore it does not destroy the tissue, and the changes obtained are not temporary.
"We can adjust the curvature of the cornea and, thus, change the refractive power of the eye", – says Vukelich.
The new technology is not a surgical procedure. In addition, she has much fewer side effects and limitations than the same refractive surgery. For example, patients with thin corneas, dry eye syndrome and some other pathologies can not benefit from refractive surgery.
"The most interesting is that our technology can be used on other collagen rich tissues. We also work with colleagues on methods of treating early osteoarthritis, and the preliminary results are very, very encouraging. We believe that our non-invasive approach can open up opportunities for treating or repairing collagen tissue without tissue damage", – says Vukelich.
The research team plans to begin clinical trials of the technology by the end of 2018.
The results of the study, which could potentially lead to the treatment of myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism, are published in the scientific publication Nature Photonics.
Earlier authors of the project "Vesti.Nauka" reported on other innovative ways to combat vision impairment. In particular, the progression of myopia in children can be slowed down by special drops for the eyes.