New intelligent contact lenses can help prevent glaucoma

Glaucoma affects more than 80 million people worldwide and can steal a person’s vision.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The new lenses also provide crisp vision..jpg
The new lenses also provide crisp vision.

Purdue University photo/Rebecca McElhoe 

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma affects more than 80 million people worldwide and can steal a person’s vision without any preventive early warning signs. Now, a new set of smart contact lenses developed by Chi Hwan Lee, the Leslie A. Geddes Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, may be able to stop the disease in its tracks, according to a statement published by the institution earlier this month.

Measuring IOP

The new lenses achieve this by accurately measuring intraocular pressure (IOP) in a person’s eye, which is difficult to do for long periods of time, particularly during sleep.

“The largest increase in IOP often occurs while people are lying down, when overnight IOP is typically 10 percent to 20 percent greater than daytime IOP. Vision loss may occur during sleep without the patient noticing it, even if daytime in-clinic or at-home measurements indicate normal IOP,” said Lee.

To deal with this alarming and severe issue, Lee devised of the new intelligent contact lenses.

“To address this unmet need, we developed a unique class of smart soft contact lenses built upon various commercial brands of soft contact lenses for continuous 24-hour IOP monitoring, even during sleep at home,” Lee added.

“Our smart soft contact lenses retain the intrinsic lens features of lens power, biocompatibility, softness, transparency, wettability, oxygen transmissibility and overnight wearability. Having all these features at the same time is crucial to the success of translating the smart soft contact lenses into glaucoma care, but these features are lacking in current wearable ocular tonometers.”

New intelligent contact lenses can help prevent glaucoma
Dr. Pete Kollbaum demonstrates the new smart soft contact lenses.

The lenses come with a tonometer that creates a wireless recording that is transmitted to a receiver in a pair of eyeglasses for daytime IOP measurement and a sleep mask for IOP measurement when sleeping.

24-hour IOP rhythm data

This results in the collection of 24-hour IOP rhythm data that can be shared with clinicians remotely via an encrypted server. Better yet, the tonometer is perfectly comfortable to the wearer.

“This tonometer is significantly more comfortable than any other type of contact lens sensor we have come across and more comfortable than any currently available commercially available IOP sensor,” said Dr. Pete Kollbaum, professor and associate dean for research with the Indiana University School of Optometry and director of the school’s Borish Center for Ophthalmic Research.

“This is related to the technology that Lee uses to apply the sensor to the lens, retaining a very thin overall sensor, and to the fact that the lens itself is a time-tested, commercially available lens, leveraging the clinical studies and associated time and money the contact lens manufacturers have spent to assure a comfortable lens.”

The new lenses achieve all this while at the same time offering improved crips vision. Now, the researchers have some ambitious plans for their new invention.

“The eye is a very challenging body part that is even softer, more sensitive and curvilinear when compared to the skin,” Lee said. “We hope our approach can be also tailored for aiding and detecting other chronic ocular diseases and for other functions.”

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