Revolutionary Contact Lenses Utilize Eye Pressure Monitoring to Detect GlaucomaResearchers 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, with the hope that they will lead to early diagnosis of glaucoma. Glaucoma is 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. The problem with glaucoma is that it develops slowly over time, causing harm before any vision loss occurs. 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, have been trialed in people and offer several benefits compared to conventional eye exams.

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

One of the advantages of using GlakoLens is that it allows for easier and more accurate IOP measurements over a longer period of time compared to traditional methods. IOP can vary greatly throughout the day, so continuous monitoring provides better insight into the health of the eyes.

Hamdi Torun, the corresponding author of the study, explained that traditional methods for measuring IOP involve going to a clinic for a single measurement, which can be misleading due to natural variations. Further investigation often requires hospitalization for repeated measurements. In contrast, GlakoLens allows patients to go about their day normally while their IOP measurements are recorded and sent to a doctor for analysis after a 24-hour testing period.

The researchers tested the contact lenses on six healthy volunteers who intentionally increased their IOP by drinking water and lying flat. The data collected by the lenses in the left eye was compared to IOP measurements taken in the right eye without the lens. The findings showed that the contact lens sensors responded to the effects of water loading, and the measurements were consistent with those taken by the device.

Further experiments using larger groups of healthy individuals will be conducted to assess the accuracy and reliability of the sensors. The researchers also plan to optimize the comfort and non-invasiveness of the contact lenses in future iterations.

While these contact lenses are not the first to detect glaucoma, they offer unique advantages. Previous lenses used electrically active silicon chips, resulting in thicker and less comfortable lenses that restricted vision. GlakoLens, on the other hand, uses an electrically passive sensor and soft contact lens, ensuring greater comfort for wearers.

In addition to diagnosing glaucoma, the researchers believe that their lenses could be used to detect other health conditions by measuring molecules such as glucose and lactic acid present in the eye.

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. The researchers believe that this technology has the potential to not only save the sight of patients in the early stages of glaucoma but also provide early diagnosis for other diseases in the future.

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