09/22/2014

Fraunhofer EMFT

Micropump to protect against blindness

Cross-section of the eye with the implant in position
At the COMPAMED trade fair, researchers of Fraunhofer EMFT will present a concept for an implantable micropump system for permanent regulation of the intraocular pressure. This approach shall enable the first effective long-term therapy for diseases of the eye, such as glaucoma or opthalmophthisis.

The therapies of today for diseases of the eye, such as glaucoma or opthalmophthisis, mostly only enable a temporary relief for the patients: To treat glaucoma, filtration operations are used to give the aqueous humor an artificial drainage path under the conjunctiva. In about a quarter of the patients, however, scar tissue develops in the drainage zone over time, resulting in poor drainage of the fluid, causing the intraocular pressure to increase again. In case of opthalmophthisis (wasting or decay of the eyeballs), the production of aqueous humor is disturbed, so that the eye dries out.

The researchers at Fraunhofer EMFT are working on a new and promising approach for a treatment: as part of the “MIKROAUG” project, funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, they are developing an active, microsystem-based implant system. The industry partners DUALIS MedTech GmbH, Binder Elektronik GmbH, Jvi GmbH, MVZ Prof. Neuhann, and University Hospital of Cologne with Prof. Kirchhof are participating in the project, in a consortium headed by the Heidelberg-based company Geuder AG. The aim is to be able to regulate intraocular pressure permanently, and thus to protect the eye from drying out. The system consists of a biocompatible silicon micro-membrane pump, highly miniaturized control- and evaluation system, as well as filters, micro cannulas and a reservoir, depending on the application. The intraocular pressure is regulated by pumping out the eye fluid, which is responsible for the excess pressure. In case of opthalmophthisis the miniaturized dosage system is used for continuous toning of the eye. The micropump features an intelligent diagnosis functionality enabling reliable, exact dosage behavior.

During the therapy, the medical physician can use an external control module for adjusting the flow rate of the pump to the current intraocular pressure. For this purpose the project partners plan to integrate a telemetric module to the implant, enabling wireless control of the system. This module is also capable of recharging the battery-operated implant at suitable intervals. The patient only needs to put on special glasses for this – no need for complicated replacement procedures.

Although complex, the system shall be small enough to be comfortably implanted on the eye bulb, and adjustable to the form of the eye socket. The patient shall not feel the implant, nor be limited in his eye movements. For achieving this the project partners are continuously working on further miniaturization of the system as well as innovative assembly and joining technologies, such as hermetic sealing of the micropump.

The Fraunhofer EMFT scientists are presenting animated presentations of the MIKROAUG concept as well as selected prototypes of micropumps on the COMPAMED trade fair in Hall 8A, Booth K40.