January 20, 2023

New smart soft contact lens developed for glaucoma diagnosis and management

A new ocular technology -a smart soft contact lens- which continuously monitor -for 24-hour cycle- the intraocular pressure (IOP) in a person’s eye, developed by a research team leading by Chi Hwan Lee, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.

IOP is the only known modifiable risk factor for glaucoma, which can steal a person’s vision without early warning signs or pain and affects more than 80 million people worldwide, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. Studies have suggested that IOP variability is associated with retinal structure damage that occurs in patients with glaucoma and that patients with greater IOP variability may be at higher risk for glaucoma progression.

Smart contact lenses use tiny sensors, like those found in smartphones and other wearable devices, to collect data about the pressure inside the eye. As a result, they accurately measure intraocular pressure (IOP), monitor changes in IOP, and could conceivably stop glaucoma-related blindness. These smart contact lenses are called theragnostic devices: a newly coined word meaning that they can diagnose and treat glaucoma. Because can be personalized for each patient’s unique clinical needs, they may provide a promising treatment option for glaucoma. 

As Prof. Lee said: “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. 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 tonometer.”

Predicting whether a patient’s glaucoma will develop slowly or quickly is difficult. However, the use of smart contact lenses can change that. According to a study in the April 2022 edition of the Journal of Ophthalmology, electronic signals from a smart contact lens can be used to predict which glaucoma patients may have a faster advancing version of the disease.

Konstantinos Tourmouzis, MBBS, BSc

Royal United Hospital, United Kingdom

Scientific Associate of Athens Ophthalmic Day Surgery Unit