Use of Porous Liquid-Crystalline Elastomers in Glaucoma Treatment Devices

Stowe, Logan
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause pathological changes in the retina and optic nerve with corresponding visual field loss and blindness if left untreated. The National Eye Institute concluded in 2014 that an estimated 2.7 million people in the United States are affected by this chronic illness. While there are several short-term remedies available to afflicted individuals, predictable long-term treatments for glaucoma remain elusive, especially at advanced stages. One proposed treatment plan includes surgical implantation of a glaucoma treatment device; however, current devices are prone to complications resulting in subsequent surgeries. The proposed research explores the use of a porous liquid-crystalline elastomer (LCE) as a potential glaucoma treatment device. A transcorneal LCE filter can be designed to mitigate the risk of complication by providing a non-surgical technique to remove and replace a compromised filter, enabled by shape switching LCE properties. Similar microporous filters are commonly applied in research, pharmaceutical, and industrial settings to sterilize fluids by removal of bacteria. Additionally, the unique shape-switching abilities of LCEs combined with microporous filtration capabilities are expected to extend to applications far beyond this single device. It is the goal of this project to determine a suitable technique to create microporous LCEs suitable for use in a glaucoma treatment device. Preliminary test results are encouraging that a prototype could be developed for testing as a potential glaucoma treatment device.
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