Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center are working with a new type of laser to find the best way to treat a leading cause of blindness in people with diabetes.
The laser is manufactured by Quantel Medical, which is based in France, and has been approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. The Truhlsen Eye Institute got the first one in the U.S. market.
Physicians at the institute have been using the laser to treat several eye conditions, including proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a serious complication of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. Laser treatment helps shrink the abnormal blood vessels.
Kandi McCauley of McCook, Neb., who has type 1 diabetes, was treated last month at the eye institute for her diabetic retinopathy. At the start of the treatment, she said, the laser light was “really intense,” but her ophthalmologist, Dr. Diana Do, adjusted the device so the light didn't bother McCauley. The treatment, McCauley said, took about five minutes.
The device delivers a pattern of spots that “allows retinal specialists and surgeons to apply a large amount of laser in a short amount of time,” said Do, who is director of the Carl Camras Center for Innovative Clinical Research at the eye institute. “Previously,” Do said, “we have used the traditional one-spot lasers. Those have been effective, but they are limited,” and treatments take much longer.
Dr. Quan Dong Nguyen, the eye institute's director, said the yellow wavelength delivered by the device potentially is less damaging to the surrounding retinal tissues. Nguyen said he and other researchers plan to conduct a study comparing traditional lasers with the new one.
The UNMC collaboration with the laser manufacturer will help establish a protocol for the treatment of another eye condition called diabetic macular edema, said Peter Falzon, general manager of Quantel Medical USA. That involves swelling of the retina due to the leaking of fluid from blood vessels within the macula, the central part of the retina.
Nguyen serves as chairman for Quantel's scientific advisory board.
Drug treatment now is the standard of care for the condition, Falzon said, but Nguyen and other investigators will “help the retina community determine what role the laser should play and what the standard of care should be going forward using the laser and drugs together.”
Nguyen noted that studies he and his former colleagues at Johns Hopkins University had conducted confirmed the effectiveness of the drug ranibizumab for diabetic macular edema.
Nguyen and Do, who are married, came to UNMC in March from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
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