When soldiers or other people sustain eye injuries, retinal detachment and vision loss can result if the eye's vitreous gel isn't kept from leaking out. Given that Band-Aids can't be placed directly on the eyeball, however, a team of scientists from the University of Southern California has created an alternative – reversible eye glue.
The solution is a polymer known as Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide), or pNIPAM. It stays in a non-adhesive liquid state when cool, but becomes sticky and firm when warmed up by the body heat of the eye. This allows it to seal the wound while the patient is in transit, keeping the gel inside the eye.
Once the patient has reached a hospital, doctors simply apply a cool saline solution to the glue. This causes it to liquify again, so it can be harmlessly flushed out.
In tests performed on pig cadaver eyes, it was found to offer adhesion performance similar to that of cyanoacrylate, better-known as super glue ... which is definitely not something that should be applied to the eyes.
The USC scientists are presenting their research this week at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.