Breakthrough Innovation: Smart Contact Lens Revolutionizes Glaucoma DetectionGlaucoma, a condition that damages the optic nerve due to fluid build-up in the eye, affects approximately 70 million people worldwide. Unfortunately, it is often detected during routine eye tests when irreversible damage may have already occurred. However, a breakthrough in contact lens technology may change this.

Researchers from Northumbria University and Boğaziçi University in Istanbul have developed contact lenses with micro-sensors that monitor changes in intra-ocular pressure (IOP) over several hours. These sensors wirelessly transmit the collected data to ophthalmologists for analysis. The findings of their initial pilot study, involving six participants, were published in the journal Contact Lens and Anterior Eye.

Having confirmed the effectiveness of the technology, the researchers plan to conduct a larger study over the next year. Once completed, the lenses will be made commercially available through their spin-off company, GlakoLens. One advantage of using these contact lenses is that they allow for easier and more accurate measurements of IOP over an extended period of time.

Professor Hamdi Torun from Northumbria University explained that IOP can vary significantly throughout the day. Therefore, continuous monitoring for a full day provides the best insight into eye health. Traditional methods involve single measurements at clinics, which can be misleading due to natural IOP variations. If a variation is detected, further investigation requires hospitalization for repeated measurements using a technique called Goldmann applanation tonometry. This process can be uncomfortable for patients and costly for healthcare systems.

The newly developed contact lenses allow patients to go about their day as usual while their IOP measurements are recorded and sent to doctors for analysis once the 24-hour testing period is complete. The system has been tested on six healthy volunteers who were asked to increase their IOP levels intentionally by drinking water and lying flat.

Unlike previous products that used an electrically active silicon chip, resulting in thicker and less comfortable lenses, the GlakoLens contact lenses utilize an electrically passive sensor embedded in a disposable soft lens. The data is collected, stored, and processed using a wearable electronic readout system.

In addition to diagnosing glaucoma, the researchers believe that these lenses have the potential to detect other health conditions by measuring molecules such as glucose and lactic acid in the eye. This innovation could revolutionize the way eye health is monitored and improve early detection of various diseases.

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