A wireless contact lens that monitors eye pressure and delivers glaucoma drugs on demand has been tested in animals
17 May 2022
A wireless contact lens device could help to treat the eye disease glaucoma by monitoring the build-up of pressure inside the eye and automatically delivering drugs when it rises too high.
Glaucoma affects about 7.7 million people worldwide and is caused by insufficient drainage of fluid from the eye, which elevates eye pressure and can damage the optic nerve that transmits visual signals to the brain.
The disease is commonly treated using drugs that help to drain excess fluid from the eye, in the form of eye drops. But people may fail to stick to their treatment schedule, according to Xi Xie at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, and his colleagues.
They designed a prototype contact lens device that can sense eye pressure and release glaucoma drugs when needed. The outer layer of the lens has six tiny copper plates arranged in a ring around the pupil that sense eye deformation caused by a rise in eye pressure. An antenna placed near the eye then transmits the data to a nearby computer. The inner layer of the lens – in contact with the cornea region of the eye – is loaded with a pressure-lowering drug called brimonidine that can be released when the lens receives a signal from the computer via the antenna.
The researchers have trialled their lenses in healthy rabbits. They first demonstrated that the device could monitor eye pressure in the animals and transmit the data wirelessly to the external computer. They then used the computer to wirelessly transmit a signal to the contact lens that triggered the release of brimonidine.
By then tracking changes in eye pressure in the rabbits, they found that the animals’ eye pressure had decreased by around a third after 30 minutes, and by more than 40 per cent after 2 hours, on average.
“The realisation of this technology for use at point-of-care settings could revolutionise the lives of millions of patients with glaucoma,” says Ali Yetisen at Imperial College London. “It [would be] a wonderful addition to the [tools] of the ophthalmologist.”
However, further studies will be needed to assess how well the device works in humans.
Journal reference: Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29860-x
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