Surgical needles that deliver medicine to the eye lead the way in treating the most common forms of eye disease. Unfortunately, this treatment is dangerous and can cause infections that lead to blindness. One group of undergraduate bioengineering students is addressing the danger with a new type of needle. “Intraocular injections are effective at treating many diseases but may lead to serious infections — our device should greatly reduce this risk,” said Nick Rejali, one of the students on the team. The students won $15,000 at the 2014 Bench-to-Bedside competition at the U by creating an improved intraocular injection needle with a novel coating made of PLGA (polylactic-co-glycolic acid) at the tip. PLGA is made of sugars and is biodegradable and extremely protective. An eye pierced by this new-generation needle can prevent bacteria from entering the eye’s most vulnerable region. Only when a wire, the diameter about that of a human hair, punctures the PLGA coating will the medicine be delivered, cleanly, to the back of the eye. This clever design can reduce infection rates in the eye without sacrificing efficiency.
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