English researchers have just created the world's first magnetic implants that can successfully control eye movement. Eye doctors around the world are hopeful these new oculomotor prosthetics could cure the debilitating flickering eye disease called nystagmus.
Professors from both the University of Oxford and the University College London teamed up on this study. Results from the latest study show that these magnetic implants help nystagmus patients with symptoms like uncontrollable blinking or wobbling.
The patient who tested out these magnetic implants developed nystagmus as a complication from Hodgkin's lymphoma. Apparently this patient suffered such bad symptoms from nystagmus that he was forced to quit his job.
The researchers put two magnets in each of the patient's eyes at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. One magnet was placed on a bone at the very bottom of the eye socket. The other was placed on an extraocular muscle.
Amazingly, the patient said he experienced enhanced vision just a few days after putting in the implants. He has experienced no negative effects after four years of wearing the implants. Study authors also note that this patient has found a new job and can both read and watch TV without any problems.
One major doctor on this study was Dr. Parashkev Nachev of the University College London's Institute of Neurology. Dr. Nachev said that since nystagmus has so many causes from the central nervous system, it's next to impossible to develop a pharmaceutical treatment for the disease. That's why Dr. Nachev and others decided to focus their research on implants that would work directly with the eye muscles.
Although the results from this long-term study are promising, researchers say they still need more data before these implants can be released to the general public. They also note that not every nystagmus patient will benefit from these implants.
In particular, nystagmus patients who require repeated MRI scans won't do well with these implants. Since the implants are magnetic, obviously this will only lead to more serious eye problems with constant exposure to an MRI machine.
Nystagmus currently affects 1 in 1,000 people and causes uncontrolled movements of the eyes. People with nystagmus often lose a great deal of depth perception and have trouble balancing.
Sadly, nystagmus is quite common in children. There are no cures for nystagmus yet, but there are numerous ways to control the disease's symptoms. Often people with nystagmus will be prescribed contacts or eyeglasses to help with visual issues. Surgery is only performed in rare cases.
Professor Geoff Roes and Mr. David Verity were the lead authors on this study. They published their study in the medical journal Ophthalmology under the title "Magnetic Oculomotor Prosthetics for Acquired Nystagmus."