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. The main goal of this innovation is to enable early diagnosis of glaucoma, a condition that can lead to 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) caused by fluid build-up in the front part of the eye. Unfortunately, glaucoma develops slowly over time, often causing irreparable harm before any vision loss occurs. By the time glaucoma is detected during routine eye exams, the damage may already be done.
However, the collaboration between researchers from Northumbria University and Boğaziçi University may change this. They have successfully developed contact lenses that can detect fluctuations in IOP and use this information to diagnose glaucoma. The lenses have been tested on six healthy volunteers who intentionally increased their IOP by drinking water and lying flat. The results showed that the contact lens sensors accurately responded to the effects of water loading.
Compared to conventional eye exams, the use of these contact lenses, called GlakoLens, offers several advantages. The lenses allow for easier and more accurate IOP measurements over a longer period of time. This continuous monitoring provides a better understanding of the patient’s eye health. Traditional methods of measuring IOP involve single measurements at a clinic, which can be misleading due to natural variations in IOP. If a variation is detected, further investigation is required, often involving hospitalization and repeated measurements using a technique called Goldmann applanation tonometry.
The GlakoLens contact lenses offer a less invasive experience for patients. Once placed in the eye, patients can go about their day as usual while their IOP measurements are recorded. After the 24-hour testing period is complete, the data is sent to a doctor for analysis.
The researchers plan to conduct further experiments using larger groups of healthy individuals to test the accuracy and reliability of the sensors. They also aim to optimize 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 behind GlakoLens believe their technology offers unique advantages. Previous contact lenses used an electrically active silicon chip, resulting in a thicker and less comfortable lens that restricted vision. In contrast, GlakoLens uses an electrically passive sensor and a soft contact lens, ensuring greater comfort for wearers.
In addition to diagnosing glaucoma, the researchers believe their contact lenses could be used to detect other health conditions by measuring molecules such as glucose and lactic acid present in the eye.
The study detailing this innovation was published in the journal Contact Lens and Anterior Eye. The contact lenses are expected to be commercially available through the spin-off company GlakoLens.
Source: Northumbria University