The research activities concern materials science, optics, and spectroscopy applied to systems of interest for optometry and/or ophthalmology. Few examples are (i) the development and characterization of polymers for contact lenses and also for drug release by contact lenses, (ii) the material characterization before and after wear (surface morphology, roughness, rheology, geometry, etc.), (iii) the characterization of the preservative solutions for contact lenses and also of tears for diagnostic purposes, (iv) the development of specific instrumentation, and (v) the study of the mechanisms of vision, also in collaboration with specialists of this field.
Recent studies were focused on the properties of materials for soft contact lenses in terms of microscopic structure and uptake/release of hyaluronan, lactoferrin, and drugs. Different materials were investigated. The uptake was studied in terms of loading capability, penetration depth in the lens, release profile as a function of time. The properties of the lenses were also characterized after wear. In some cases, a completely different scenario was observed compared to the unworn lenses, with the appearance of regions of swelling, depending on the type of material, attributable to the progressive relaxation of the polymeric network. Since the eyelid pressure is expected to be one of the factors causing material modifications, a study was focused on the pressure effects on the lenses. In siloxane-hydrogel materials, the mechano-synthesis of hydrogen peroxide was observed and attributed to the cleavage of siloxane bonds at the water/polymer interface.
A method was recently developed, which allows the acquisition under a slit-lamp bio-microscope of images of the corneal endothelium cells, which can be automatically recognized by a new procedure of morphometric analysis. The method provides data of the investigated endothelium area, the cell density, the frequency distribution histograms of cell area and shape. Cell density and morphology are clinical information of interest before and after corneal refractive surgery or implantation of intraocular lenses, for quality evaluation of donor corneal tissue in eye banks, before and after cornea transplantation, etc.
The main facilities are UV-visible-NIR spectrophotometry, refractometry, spectroscopic ellipsometry, instrumentation for photoluminescence and illuminance analyses, fluorescence and polarized optical microscopy, instrumentation for visual analyses, such as phoropters, slit lamps, non-mydriatic retinal camera with fundus autofluorescence, non-contact tonometer/pachymeter, corneal topographer, ocular aberrometer, keratometers, ophthalmoscopes, retinoscopes, etc.