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 hope that early diagnosis of glaucoma, a condition that can lead to irreversible vision loss, can be achieved.
Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, is damaged due to increased intraocular pressure (IOP) caused by fluid build-up in the front part of the eye. Unfortunately, glaucoma often develops slowly over time, causing irreparable harm before any vision loss is noticed. By the time it is detected during routine eye tests, the damage may already be done.
However, the collaboration between researchers from Northumbria University and Boğaziçi University has led to the development of contact lenses that can detect fluctuations in IOP. These lenses, called GlakoLens, contain an electrically passive sensor made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). The data collected by the sensors is wirelessly transmitted to a wearable electronic readout system, which then processes the information and sends it 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 may not accurately reflect IOP variations throughout the day. Further investigation often requires hospitalization and repeated measurements using a technique called Goldmann applanation tonometry (GAT), which can be invasive and time-consuming.
The contact lenses developed by the researchers offer a less invasive alternative. Once placed in the eye, patients can go about their day as usual while their IOP measurements are recorded. After a 24-hour period of testing, the data is sent to a doctor for analysis.
The researchers conducted tests on six healthy volunteers, who were asked to increase their IOP by drinking water and lying flat. The contact lens sensors responded to the effects of water loading, and the measurements taken by the lens in the left eye were consistent with those taken by the device in the right eye.
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 other glaucoma-detecting contact lenses have been developed in the past. However, the researchers claim that their GlakoLens offers greater comfort and flexibility due to its electrically passive sensor and soft contact lens design.
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 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