Smart lenses to catch glaucoma early

C&I Issue 2, 2024

Read time: 1 min | Image credit: Simon Veit-Wilson/Northumbria University


Phase 3 trials demonstrate record efficacy in the R21/Matrix-M vaccine – but can it pass the ‘ultimate test’?

A team of researchers has developed and tested lenses that successfully measure pressure changes inside the eye. The new system, published in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye (doi: 10.1016/j.clae.2023.102102), could one day be used to help with earlier diagnosis of glaucoma.

Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, is damaged by increased intraocular pressure, usually caused by a build-up of fluid in the front of the eye. If left untreated, it can lead to irreversible vision loss.

Traditional diagnosis relies on periodic pressure measurements during clinic visits, making timely intervention difficult. That’s why Hamdi Torun and his team at Northumbria University, UK, are developing lenses that continuously monitor intraocular pressure.

To assemble the lenses, the team built sensors as very thin layers of metal and embedded them on a flexible polymer substrate. In addition to the lenses, the system includes a wearable antenna attached to a reader around the eye. The reader interacts with the lens and collects the necessary data in a system that Torun explains is electrically passive and therefore safe. ‘This means we don’t induce any current or voltage on the contact lens. It’s very convenient to move all the electronics to a reader unit. Instead of having an active chip or electronics on the contact lens, we are moving it away from the eye,’ he explains.

Researchers recruited six healthy participants and tested how the system measured intraocular pressure, compared with typical measurements made by doctors. They also tested pressure changes before and after the participants drank water and sat in a supine position, to increase intraocular pressure.

The results showed that the lenses responded to the effects of the water load in the 30 minutes after the participants drank, making the lenses a promising tool for continuous measurement of intraocular pressure. Torun would like to test the system and the accuracy of the measurements on larger groups of participants. If funding is secured, he’s confident that the system could reach the market as soon as 2025.