Magnetic fluids offer hope for treatment of retinal detachment

August 22, 2000

Someday silicone magnetic nanoparticles may be used to treat retinal detachment. Similar materials may also be used to increase the memory on your computer.

Virginia Tech researchers will describe their advances in creating biocompatible magnetic fluids at the 220th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, which will be Aug. 20-24 in Washington, D.C.

Chemistry professor Judy Riffle explains that silicone magnetic materials is a new area of study. "For the past few years, a Virginia Tech group has been working with Dr. J.P. Dailey of Erie Retinal Surgery on the chemistry to create biocompatible magnetic fluids. Our studies have just came to fruition and have been picked up by the Carilion Biomedical Institute," she says.

The retina -- the inner layer of the eye -- is imbedded with nerves that sense light. With age, tears in the retina can occur. A hole in the membrane allows fluid to leak;when the retina is not supported, it dislodges.

The treatment being studied would be to inject magnetic fluid into the sclera, the outer protective white coating of the eye, and use a magnetized scleral buckle to pull the fluid to a specific site and push the retina back against the underlying choroid, the membrane between the retina and the sclera. Scleral buckles -- narrow, supportive bands that can be placed around the eye -- are already in use, Riffle explains, "They just aren't magnetic."

Toxicity studies on the new material will be done in coming months.

Carilion is also interested in biocompatible magnetic nanoparticles as a vehicle for directing drugs to a specific location in the body, such as a tumor, Riffle explains.

Magnetic nanoparticles could allow for smaller magnetic arrays as we try to make smaller computer hard disks with higher storage density.
Riffle will present the paper, "Synthesis and characterization of novel silicone magnetic materials (Poly 273 )," at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, August 22, in the JW Marriott Hotel Capitol Salon F. Co-authors are Virginia Tech graduate students Metha Rutnakornpituk, Michael Vadala, Kristen S. Wilson, and Jennifer K. Hoyt.

The research is sponsored by the Carilion Biomedical Institute and the Hirtzel Memorial Foundation. Related work has been published in the Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials (vol. 194, 1999), "Synthesis of silicone magnetic fluid for use in eye surgery," by Dailey, J.P. Phillips, C. Li, and Riffle.

PR Contact: Susan Trulove

Virginia Tech

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