New Soft Contact Lens Diagnoses and Monitors Eye Diseases

It's a new painless and unobtrusive way of keeping an eye on medical conditions.
Fabienne Lang
An illustration of a contact lens with sensorssergeyryzhov/iStock

A new soft contact lens may soon be joining the ranks of methods to diagnose and monitor ocular diseases. 

A multidisciplinary team of researchers from Purdue University in the U.S. created the lens, which is a novel, painless, and unobtrusive way to keep an eye on these medical conditions. 

Commercial soft contact lenses have been on researchers' radar to help diagnose and monitor ocular diseases for a while, but they have proven tricky to use as typical sensors and electronics used for such uses normally require a hard, planar surface to function. Something a soft, curved, thin contact lens can't offer. 

When speaking of their new creation, Chi Hwan Lee of Purdue University, who is also leading the development team of this project, said "This technology will be greatly beneficial to the painless diagnosis or early detection of many ocular diseases including glaucoma."

How the team created its contact lens

The way the team managed to develop a soft contact lens for this purpose was by integrating ultrathin, stretchable biosensors with soft commercial contact lenses using wet adhesive bonding. 

New Soft Contact Lens Diagnoses and Monitors Eye Diseases
The new contact lens that monitors ocular diseases. Source: Pete Kollbaum/Purdue University

The biosensors embedded within the contact lenses record retinal activity from the surface of the eye. As these are regular contact lenses, no topical anesthesia to manage pain and safety, as is typical with current clinical diagnosis and monitoring settings, is required. 

"This technology will allow doctors and scientists to better understand spontaneous retinal activity with significantly improved accuracy, reliability, and user comfort," explained Pete Kollbaum who is leading clinical trials, and is the director of the Borish Center for Ophthalmic Research and associate professor of optometry at Indiana University.

Finding new ways of diagnosing and monitoring ocular diseases, including blindness, have been an important focus for a while, with other types of contact lenses, and specific visition-correcting glasses being invented around the world.

The Purdue University team's creation could certainly pave the way for easier diagnoses down the line. 

The next steps of the new technology will be to go through clinical trials. The team's work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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