Improving Eyes With Electricity

Improving Eyes With Electricity

ScyFix’s CEO Tom Harold says his company hopes to put the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved ophthalmic device for reversing symptoms of certain eye diseases on the market by summer. His Chanhassen-based company has developed the device in the past eight years and is currently awaiting FDA approval.

Age-related macular degeneration affects 30 percent of those 64 and older. With dry macular degeneration, patients lose their central vision—a spot appears that spreads until the patient is blind. In wet macular degeneration patients, the same situation occurs but with the addition of blood vessels bursting and flooding the eye with fluid and blood.

Retinitis pigmentosa, characterized by reduced ability to see at night and at the periphery of vision, runs in families and can affect children and adults alike. ScyFix is targeting these eye diseases with its new device.

Consisting of two eye pads with electrodes that are connected by wires to a control pad about the size of a Blackberry, the device sends electrical impulses to the eyes during two 20-minute sessions per day. The intensity of the impulses as well as the duration depends on the patient’s needs and comfort level.

Harold says the device works in several ways. It improves microvascular circulation, providing more oxygen to the diseased area. “As cells are dying, they get clogged up and they can’t expel waste products and pull in nutrients,” he says.

The electrical stimulation also releases neurotrophins, which help promote the health of neurons. One study found that genes responsible for reduced ATP, an amino acid that is necessary for all cells to live, are found in macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. There’s evidence that the electrical stimulation from ScyFix’s device helps restore ATP production in retinal cells. It can stop the progression of age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa and even reverse the symptoms altogether.

Patients using the device report a mild tingling feeling, seeing flashes of light even though their eyes are closed, or not feeling anything at all.