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Optoelectronic nanomaterials to reduce the complications associated with cataract surgery

Project Description

Cataracts remain the leading cause of avoidable blindness for more than 24 million people globally and are predominantly an age associated condition. Whilst they have been treated by replacement of the cloudy lens with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL) for many years there remain significant challenges associated with restoration of lens accommodation. Current IOLs are not capable of adapting to near and far vision as required. One approach is the use of ciliary muscle contraction triggered by the need for near focus to induce IOL movement and alter dioptic power. However, no devices currently provide sustained adjustable focal depth and complications linked to poor visual acuity, poor biocompatibility and in particular posterior capsule opacification (PCO) remain. In addition, it remains challenging to accurately represent the physiology of the capsular bag environment in a biological model to assess IOL biocompatibility.

MXenes are a relatively new family of optoelectronic 2-dimensional nanomaterials with properties suitable for application to an accommodating IOL design. They are electrically conductive, hydrophilic, transparent and flexible and are capable of inducing a change in lens refractive index following mechanical, electronic, or photonic stimulus. We have shown that transparent conductive MXene coatings can be used to successfully coat the lens.

We have yet to investigate optimised routes for electromechanical coupling and induction of changes in refractive index or to assess biocompatibility using an appropriate biological model. The project aim is to further develop an accommodating intraocular lens using MXene hybrid nanomaterials and to develop a biological model to assess propensity for PCO. It will test the hypothesis that optoelectronic MXene composites may be used to trigger IOL accomodation without promoting the development of PCO.

The project will be supervised by a multidisciplinary team of biomedical, nanomaterials, industrial and clinical scientists. It includes an industrial placement opportunity at Rayner Intraocular Lenses Ltd, UK. Ridley Innovation Centre is Rayner’s new £22 million training and production facility and the student will gain training in IOL synthesis routes, manufacturing, regulatory and CE marking processes in addition to access to equipment to test prototypes developed in the project. The project may include an additional international placement opportunity to Prof Yury Gogotsi’s research group at AJ Drexel Nanomaterials Institute, USA for MXene synthesis studies.

Funding Notes

UK/EU students only.

This is a three-year, full time position, funded by the University of Brighton starting in October 2019. The funding will cover the university fees, and a PhD stipend at the UKRI rate, £15,009 pa for 2019/20.

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