Who would have thought a smart nanotechnology material that keeps aircraft and wind turbine blades free from ice could help glaucoma patients?
Khalid Lafdi and Ed Timm did.
Lafdi, a research engineer at the University of Dayton Research Institute, invented the material nicknamed “fuzzy fiber” to detect ice on commercial structures, then heat itself to de-ice the structures, according to the university. Carbon nanotubes are the “fuzz” on the carbon scaffolding.
In May, Lafdi got a big financial boost for his research, winning a $3 million Ohio Third Frontier grant (pdf) for the university’s Hybrid Fabrics for Multifunctional Composites project, according to the Ohio Department of Development.
The carbon tubes would drain excess fluid and relieve pressure in patients’ eyes. Mobius Therapeutics, which sponsored the research, supports research and development for advances in treatment for glaucoma.
The carbon tubes could be an alternative to silicone tubes, which must be replaced in most patients because they become encased by naturally occurring growth cells so they no longer drain fluid from the eye.
“Silicone is not just the wrong material to use, it is exactly the wrong material,” Timm said. “Because the body does not see it as a foreign material, the tube immediately becomes encapsulated with fibroblasts as healing takes place around it. As scar tissue builds up over time, the tube can no longer drain fluid and must be replaced.”
Though the carbon tubes also are biocompatible, their fuzz could keep scar material from forming and blocking the tubes.
Glaucoma affects more than 4 million Americans, and is the second-leading cause of blindness and the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.
Lafdi and Timm plan to take the carbon eye tubes through animal and human testing, said spokeswoman Pamela Gregg.
The research institute would make the material used in the tests, and could supply it to a company that manufactures the implants, Gregg said.
Lafdi sees other medical applications for his nano-fiber, starting with drainage tubes for children’s ears. “What we will be doing to accommodate another application is to work on the surface chemistry of the nanotubes,” the researcher said in an email. “But the nanocomposite scaffold should remain the same.”