Synthetic polymers for ophthalmic applications
The contact lens represents a well-established important class of biomaterials. This thesis brings together the literature, mostly Japanese and American patents, concerned with an important group of polymers, `rigid gas permeable contact lens materials'. A comparison is made of similarities in the underlying chemical themes, centring on the use of variants of highly branched siloxy compounds with polymerizable methacrylate groups. There is a need for standard techniques to assess laboratory behaviour in relation to in vitro performance. A major part of the present work is dedicated to the establishment of such standardised techniques. It is apparent that property design requirements in this field (i.e. oxygen permeability, surface and mechanical properties) are to some extent conflicting. In principle, the structural approaches used to obtain high oxygen permeability lead to surface properties that are less than ideal in terms of compatibility with tears. PMMA is known to have uniquely good (but not perfect) surface properties in this respect; it has been used as a starting point in attempting to design new materials that possess a more acceptable compromise of transport and surface properties for ocular use. Initial examination of the oxygen permeabilities of relatively simple alkyl methacrylates, show that butyl methacrylate which has a permeability some fifty times greater than PMMA, represents an interesting and hitherto unexplored group of materials for ophthalmic applications. Consideration was similarly given to surface modification techniques that would produce materials having the ability to sustain coherent tear film in the eye without markedly impairing oxygen transport properties. Particular attention is paid to the use of oxygen plasma techniques in this respect. In conclusion, similar design considerations were applied to an extended wear hydrogel lens material in an attempt to overcome mechanical stability deficiencies which manifest themselves lq`in vivo' but not `in vitro'. A relatively simple structure modification, involving steric shielding of the amide substituent group, proved to be an effective solution to the problem.