Revolutionary Contact Lenses: Detecting Glaucoma through Eye Pressure MonitoringResearchers 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 information gathered by these lenses is then sent to an ophthalmologist for evaluation. The goal of this technology is to enable early diagnosis of glaucoma, a condition that can cause irreversible vision loss if left untreated.

Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, is damaged due to increased intraocular pressure (IOP). This pressure is usually caused by a buildup of fluid in the front part of the eye. Unfortunately, glaucoma develops slowly over time and often goes unnoticed until irreversible damage has already occurred. By the time it is detected during routine eye tests, it may be too late.

However, the collaboration between researchers from Northumbria University and Boğaziçi University brings hope for earlier detection of glaucoma. They have successfully developed contact lenses that can detect fluctuations in IOP and use this information to diagnose glaucoma. The lenses have been trialed in individuals and have shown promising results.

The contact lenses, known as GlakoLens, contain an electrically passive sensor embedded in a disposable soft contact lens made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). The data collected by the lenses is wirelessly transmitted to a wearable electronic readout system, which then processes and stores the information. Finally, the processed data is given to an ophthalmologist for evaluation.

One of the advantages of using GlakoLens is that it allows for easier and more accurate IOP measurements compared to conventional eye exams. Traditional methods involve single measurements taken at a clinic, which can be misleading due to natural variations in IOP. Further investigation often requires hospitalization for repeated measurements using a technique called Goldmann applanation tonometry (GAT). In contrast, GlakoLens allows for continuous monitoring of IOP over a 24-hour period without disrupting the wearer’s daily activities.

Hamdi Torun, the corresponding author of the study, explains, “The benefit of the contact lenses we have developed is that once placed in the eye, the patient can then go about their day as normal while their IOP measurements are recorded and sent to a doctor for analysis once the 24-hour period of testing is complete.”

The researchers conducted initial tests on six healthy volunteers who intentionally increased their IOP by drinking water and lying flat. The contact lenses accurately responded to these changes, and the measurements taken by the lenses aligned with those taken by traditional devices.

The next step for the researchers is to conduct further experiments with larger groups of individuals to assess the accuracy and reliability of the sensors. They 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. In previous studies, researchers from South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) tested a contact lens that monitored glaucoma and released medication into the eye as needed. Another California-based startup trialed miLens, a ring placed in the eye that physically measured IOP. However, GlakoLens stands out due to its electrically passive sensor and soft contact lens, which prioritize wearer comfort.

In addition to diagnosing glaucoma, the researchers believe that their 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 detailing the development of GlakoLens was published in the journal Contact Lens and Anterior Eye. The lenses are expected to be commercially available through the spin-off company GlakoLens.

This innovative technology has the potential to save the sight of patients in the early stages of glaucoma and could also provide early diagnosis for other diseases in the future, according to Hamdi Torun.

Source: Northumbria University

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