Revolutionary Contact Lenses Unveiled: Pioneering Diagnostic Tool for Glaucoma DetectionAround 70 million people worldwide are affected by glaucoma, a condition that can lead to irreversible vision loss if left untreated. Shockingly, about half of those living with glaucoma are unaware of their condition. Typically, glaucoma develops slowly over time and often goes unnoticed until significant damage has already occurred. However, a groundbreaking development by academics from the UK and Türkiye could change this.

These researchers have created a contact lens that can detect changes in eye pressure, which are indicative of possible glaucoma. Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve becomes damaged due to increased pressure inside the eye, known as intra-ocular pressure (IOP). The new contact lenses contain micro-sensors that monitor changes in IOP over several hours. The collected data is then sent wirelessly for analysis by an ophthalmologist, who can provide a diagnosis.

The study, conducted by Professor Hamdi Torun from Northumbria University, and Professors Günhan Dündar and Arda D. Yalcinkaya from Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, has been published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, the official Journal of the British Contact Lens Association. Their paper, titled “A first-in-human pilot study of a novel electrically-passive metamaterial-inspired resonator-based ocular sensor embedded contact lens monitoring intraocular pressure fluctuations,” presents the findings from their initial pilot study involving six participants.

Having confirmed the success of their technology, the researchers plan to conduct a larger study with more participants over the next year. Once completed, the contact lenses will be made commercially available through their spin-off company, GlakoLens.

One advantage of using GlakoLens contact lenses for glaucoma diagnosis is that measurements can be taken more easily and accurately over an extended period of time. Professor Torun explains that IOP can vary significantly throughout a day, so continuous monitoring is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of eye health. Traditional methods involve single measurements at a clinic, which can be misleading due to natural IOP variations. Further investigation often requires hospitalization for repeated measurements using a technique called Goldmann applanation tonometry. This process can be uncomfortable for patients and burdensome for the healthcare system.

The contact lenses developed by the researchers allow patients to carry on with their daily activities while their IOP measurements are recorded and sent for analysis once the 24-hour testing period is complete. The system has already been tested with six healthy volunteers who were asked to increase their IOP levels intentionally by drinking water and lying flat.

Unlike previous contact lenses designed to measure IOP, which used an electrically active silicon chip resulting in a thicker and less comfortable lens, the GlakoLens contact lenses utilize an electrically passive sensor embedded in a disposable soft lens. This design, along with a wearable electronic readout system, ensures comfort and normal vision for the patient.

In addition to diagnosing glaucoma, these contact lenses have the potential to detect other health conditions by measuring glucose, lactic acid, and other molecules present in the eye. Professor Torun believes that this technology holds immense potential not only in saving the sight of glaucoma patients in its early stages but also in providing early diagnosis for other diseases in the future.

To read the full research paper published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, click here. To learn more about Northumbria University’s Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Electrical Engineering, click here.

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