Researchers from Northumbria University in the UK and Boğaziçi University in Turkey have developed contact lenses with embedded sensors that can measure the pressure inside the eye. The data collected by these lenses is then sent to an ophthalmologist for evaluation, with the aim of enabling early diagnosis of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition that can lead to irreversible vision loss if left untreated, and it is often referred to as the “silent thief of sight” because it develops slowly over time without causing any noticeable vision loss.
The contact lenses, known as GlakoLens, contain an electrically passive sensor made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). This sensor collects data on fluctuations in intraocular pressure (IOP) and wirelessly transmits it to a wearable electronic readout system. The system then processes the data and provides it to an ophthalmologist for analysis.
Compared to traditional eye exams, GlakoLens offers several advantages. It allows for easier and more accurate IOP measurements over a longer period of time, which can lead to a more precise diagnosis. According to Hamdi Torun, the corresponding author of the study, monitoring IOP continuously or at regular intervals throughout the day provides valuable insights into the health of the eyes. Traditional methods of measuring IOP, on the other hand, often only provide a single measurement that may not accurately reflect the natural variations in pressure.
The contact lenses were tested on six healthy volunteers who were asked to drink water and lie flat to intentionally increase their IOP. The results showed that the contact lens sensors responded to the effects of water loading, and the measurements taken by the lens were consistent with those taken by other devices.
Further experiments will be conducted using larger groups of healthy individuals to assess the accuracy and reliability of the sensors. The researchers also plan to improve the comfort and non-invasiveness of the contact lenses in future iterations.
It’s worth noting that GlakoLens is not the first glaucoma-detecting contact lens to be developed. Previous versions have used electrically active silicon chips, resulting in thicker and less comfortable lenses. The researchers behind GlakoLens believe that their electrically passive sensor and soft contact lens design offer greater comfort to wearers.
In addition to diagnosing glaucoma, the researchers believe that their contact lenses could be used to detect other health conditions by measuring various molecules present in the eye, such as glucose and lactic acid.
The study was published in the journal Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, and the lenses are expected to be commercially available through the spin-off company GlakoLens.
Source: Northumbria University