Each year approximately 1.4 million people in the United States receive intra-ocular lens (IOL) implants after surgical removal of cataracts. Though these replacement lenses improve vision, postoperative complications can occur. The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the University of Utah School of Medicine established a research program in 1984 to study the causes and origins of IOL-related complications. Research performed in this center has resulted in improved quality and design of IOLs, developed new surgical techniques now used by most implant surgeons, and spurred the withdrawal of poorly designed IOLs from the marketplace. We are now studying the causes, prevention, and treatment of posterior capsule opacification and development of IOLs from new soft biomaterials. The Center functions as a national registry for removed IOLs and eye tissue with lens-induced disease. Ophthalmologists worldwide have sent over 16,000 specimens to the center and many eye banks from around the nation regularly send tissues to the center for histopathological analysis.
The Center also conducts research on exciting new technologies. Incorrect IOL power is still a problem following otherwise successful cataract surgery. We have worked with the industry to develop a light adjustable lens which allows lens power to be changed following surgery while the implant is inside the eye.
Another major area of research is the development of an “accommodative” IOL. Currently, IOLs correct distance vision following cataract surgery, but do not allow many patients to have clear near vision for reading. Our clinician-scientists have worked with ophthalmic companies in the development of an accommodative IOL that can provide good distance and near vision.