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Experimental feature

A French company has developed a novel way to treat an ocular condition that is a leading cause of blindness worldwide.

EyeTechCare is using ultrasound technology to treat refractory glaucoma as an alternative to other treatments, such as surgery. Philippe Chapuis, the company’s co-founder and deputy chief executive, says: “It is a non-invasive way of treating the disease. It is safer than the alternatives because it involves no surgery.”

Glaucoma is the name for a range of eye conditions where the optic nerve becomes damaged, leading to impaired vision and, in untreated cases, blindness. It affects 65m people and is the second-biggest cause of blindness worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.

Chapuis says that while the EyeOP1 technology is not the first time ultrasound has been used to treat glaucoma, in the past it has not been done with the required precision. “We target a very small part of the eye. We need to be very accurate,” he says.

Developed with the help of Inserm, the French national institute of health and medical research, EyeOP1 is a simple device placed on the surface of the eye and linked to a control module. It is quick to deploy, relatively cheap and can be used on an outpatient basis outside a sterile environment.

It has been used to treat more than 1,000 refractory glaucoma sufferers in Europe and Israel since it was launched in 2012.

Although treatment cannot reverse the loss of vision from glaucoma, it can minimise it. The company hopes to treat a further 100,000 patients over the next five to 10 years.

Before that it must undertake additional clinical studies and gain necessary regulatory approvals. “It is a long way from an idea to the release of a product,” says Chapuis. “The biggest challenge is getting the financial, clinical and technical aspects together.”

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