Editor’s Blog: ‘Star Trek’ medicine may not be light years away

May 10, 2014

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting is noted for bringing the latest research and clinical developments to the forefront of clinicians and scientists who venture in the eye-care arena. As with previous meetings, this was prevalent this week in Orlando.

 

As part of Ophthalmology Times’ coverage of the 2014 meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology this week, Group Content Director Mark L. Dlugoss wrote this blog with his observations of the meeting.

 

Orlando-The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting is noted for bringing the latest research and clinical developments to the forefront of clinicians and scientists who venture in the eye-care arena. As with previous meetings, this was prevalent this week in Orlando.

However, there are times when some incredible scientific and therapeutic ideas won't be found from the podium or in the aisle of the poster presentations. A lot of new concepts can be found in the intellectual exchanges that occur among colleagues. Ideas usually are bantered, discovered, and sometimes argued. That’s the beauty of the ARVO meeting.

During a discussion this week with someone, who is in the process of developing a device in the ophthalmic market, the conversation ventured into the future of not only ophthalmology but other fields of medicine, where microchip technology could change how clinicians practice medicine.

The concept and discussion are not new. What is new is that the technology is not necessarily out of reach of today's practices. The use of microchip technology is being developed faster, and the size of these devices is getting smaller-some to the size of a pinhead. What's even wackier about this technology is that the cost to develop it is becoming more affordable. Thus, it will accelerate the development of the technology.

 

These devices could help ophthalmologists in treating and monitoring patients with current eye problems, such as glaucoma, retina, and uveitis, even antibiotics following cataract surgery. They could become a reality faster than many think.

As these new approaches-such as monitoring and drug delivery-become reality in treating eye disease, microchip technology will come into play and will open the door for physicians to treat patients in the “virtual reality.” There are already devices in development that will monitor IOP levels in patients with glaucoma. But let's take it a step further.

How about a chip that would let physicians not only monitor patient drug delivery, but also help manage patient compliance? If a patient with glaucoma is monitored for IOP and has a drug delivery implant, the physician may be able to increase or decrease drug dosage remotely as needed based on the information provided by the monitoring device. The problems associated with patient compliance are reduced. The patient is notified of the change (via a phone call) and he or she goes about life until the next patient visit to the office.

Let’s expand this scenario in another field of medicine to get an idea how far this concept can grow. Let’s look at cardiology.

 

Cardiologists could insert a monitoring device in the form of a microchip when implanting a stent in a heart patient. The device could monitor the condition of the heart as well as the circulation system. If the patient’s medication could be dispensed through an implant and monitoring by the microchip, the physician could be in constant contact with the heart patient.

If the patient’s situation turns to a serious incident, the physician’s office can be on top of the occurrence almost immediately and notify the patient that he or she should go to the emergency room-even before the incident actually occurs.

These are just small examples, but the possibilities of new ideas are out there and being discussed at a meeting such as ARVO. Of course, these technologies won't become reality this year or next, but in 10 years or so, who knows.

With that said-“Beam me up, Scotty!!!” I want to know more!!!