18247A pioneering sleep mask to prevent blindness, created in County Durham, has been named among the top 100 Objects that Changed the World.

The Noctura 400 sleep mask is an innovative treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy (DR), which can cause sight loss.

Made by health technology firm PolyPhotonix, which is based on NETPark, Sedgefield, the mask has been chosen by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) to feature in a new exhibition.

To mark the re-opening of IET London: Savoy Place, on October 27, following a £30m two-year refurbishment, PolyPhotonix has been invited to send one of its mask to go on display.

It comes after the firm won the start-up category in the IET Innovation Awards.

PolyPhotonix CEO Richard Kirk said: “It’s an incredible honour to be named among the top 100 Objects that Changed the World.

“The Noctura 400 will be going on display in London along with innovations which have and could change the face of a wide range of industries, including healthcare, transport and technology.

“While traditional treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy involve painful injections into the eyeball or laser therapy, our mask not only provides a non-invasive alternative but could also save the NHS and health services around the world billions of pounds.”

Simon Timmis of IET said: “The development of these exhibits is hugely exciting for all involved. It represents and celebrates the best in engineering accomplishments and reminds us of the huge positive impact that technological invention can have.”

Richard, who founded PolyPhotonix in 2009, first became fascinated by light as an artist living in Paris. While he has had a major career change, he is still using light, this time to treat eye disease.

The mask has proved to be a very effective treatment with patients in the UK and increasingly in the rest of the world.

DR occurs because during the night, as the eye adapts to the dark, it requires more oxygen than it does in the daytime. In patients with diabetes, who have circulation problems, this need for extra oxygen cannot be met and their retina begins to suffer the effects of a severe lack of oxygen.

The body’s response is to grow new blood vessels. However, these new vessels are weak, prone to bleeding and leakage of fluid in the eye. In the worst cases, this can cause blindness.

Traditional treatments involve laser surgery or invasive injections into the eye, and are usually only offered when a patient’s eye condition deteriorates.

But, the new sleep mask, which harnesses the power of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), can be used at all stages through the progression of the disease. It can also be used as a preventative care treatment.

The mask is designed to be worn by the patient at night. It emits a low-level green glow, which does not interfere with sleep, to reduce the eyes’ need for oxygen and stop damage from occurring.