If you get a hold of the May 2009 issue of Medical Design magazine, check out my article there on hydrophilic coatings
. It's a brief history and overview of the technology. Comments and questions are welcome. A link to the online version of the article can be found here.
This past week I attended the conference for the Association for Research in Vision & Ophthomology (ARVO) in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. As an aside, Ft. Lauderdale is not a very "conference friendly" town. The Convention Center is in the Port Everglades sea port, which means every time you go back and forth from your hotel, you need to go through security. Plus, the Convention Center is at least a $10 or $20 cab ride from anywhere you want to be, i.e. your hotel, dinner, the beach. It's not near anything, and you certainly cannot walk to it from anywhere conveniently.
In any case, I went to this conference to evaluate the use of hydrophilic coatings in ophthomology. I went in knowing virtually nothing about the field in terms of its surgical procedures and devices. The Ophto market was at least $9 Billion last year, and growing, but unfortunately, not a large portion of this is amenable to hydrophilic coatings, from what I was able to tell.
In Cardiology and vascular surgery, everything works off of catheters and guidewires, the bread and butter of hydrophilic coating applications. In Opthomology, they do not use anything like that to perform surgeries. Nevertheless, the market for intraocular lenses (IOL's) is hot as baby boomers start to get cataracts and need replacement lenses. IOL's are nowadays folded up and injected into the eye through small slits made in the cornea, and the injector module is extremely important for this. It needs to convey the lens without damaging it and without transferring any surface material from the injector to the lens. Coating IOL cartridges today with lubricious surface material is all the rage. However, doing it in such a way as to minimize lens damage and transfer is not as easy as it sounds. Moreover, not all curing techniques can handle the small diameter tubes that comprise the injectors. UV curing, for example, would be tough to use for this.
There are other devices that can be used for drug delivery to the eye, and these often have coatings, but hydrophilic properties are not necessarily required there. Drug delivery devices for the eye is a whole other can of worms.