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In South Korea, there is a belief that consuming seaweed soup before exams can lead to failure due to the slippery nature of seaweed causing people to slip and falter during the test. This belief is attributed to the presence of alginate, a mucilaginous substance found in seaweeds like seaweed and kelp. Interestingly, a recent study has explored the use of alginate in the treatment of retinal detachment, leading to the creation of an artificial vitreous body by a collaborative team of researchers.

The team, consisting of Professor Hyung Joon Cha and Dr. Geunho Choi from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and Professors Woo Jin Jeong, Woo Chan Park, and Seoung Hyun An from Dong-A University Hospital, developed a solution based on alginate derived from algae for treating retinal detachment. The vitreous body, a gel-like substance between the lens and retina, is crucial for maintaining the eye’s structural integrity. Retinal detachment occurs when the retina separates from the inner eye wall, potentially leading to blindness in severe cases.

Traditionally, retinal detachment is treated by removing the vitreous body and replacing it with medical intraocular fillers like gas or silicone oil, which can have side effects. To address these issues, the research team utilized a modified form of alginate to create a composite hydrogel as a potential alternative for vitreous replacement. This hydrogel, with high biocompatibility and optical properties similar to the authentic vitreous body, helps preserve vision post-surgery by regulating fluid dynamics within the eye and stabilizing the retina.

To validate the stability and effectiveness of the hydrogel, the team conducted experiments using rabbit eyes as animal models, which closely resemble human eyes. Implanting the hydrogel into rabbit eyes demonstrated its success in preventing retinal detachment recurrence, maintaining stability, and functioning well over a period without any adverse effects. Professor Hyung Joon Cha emphasized the increasing prevalence of retinal detachment cases, particularly in young people, and expressed the team’s commitment to advancing the technology for practical use in eye care through ongoing research.

Professor Woo Jin Jeong highlighted the expanding global market for intraocular fillers and anticipated that the hydrogel created by the team would be beneficial in future vitreoretinal surgeries. The research was supported by the Korea Medical Device Development Fund and the National Research Foundation of Korea’s Mid-Career Research Program. Overall, the study represents a significant advancement in the treatment of retinal detachment, offering a promising alternative to current methods that may have associated side effects.

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