May 3, 2016


How smart contact lenses will create the sci-fi eyes of the future (Julie Kliegman, May 2, 2016, The Week)

One group that stands to benefit are glaucoma patients, who experience high eye pressure that can lead to irreversible blindness. Right now, such patients -- there are nearly 3 million in the U.S. alone -- get their eye pressure measured three to four times every year. But electronic sensors in contact lenses would measure pressure continuously, giving doctors more data points to determine how to proceed with treatment and dosages. Eventually, pressure-measuring contact lenses will also be able to administer medicine, eliminating the high potential for human error associated with daily eye drops. The makers of Sensimed, a contact lens that measures users' eye pressure, have already secured marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and other similar lenses are in development.

"It's potentially revolutionary," said Andrew Iwach, a glaucoma specialist and American Academy of Ophthalmology spokesman based in San Francisco.

In addition to measuring eye pressure, contact lenses of the future may be able to gauge glucose levels, replacing the finger prick method of blood sugar testing for people with diabetes. Google secured a patent for such a product in 2015.

Auto-focusing lenses like the ones Jiang is developing are another exciting area in ophthalmology. Like pressure-measuring lenses, they're still years away from being widely available. But they stand to help people who, as a natural function of aging, have trouble shifting their focus between near and far distances -- people who now wear bifocals, trifocals, or special contact lenses. The lenses could also give users better night vision.

"I think it's very exciting, and I think as a lot of people sit down and think harder about it, there are going to be more potential applications that we could come up with," said Jiang.

Posted by at May 3, 2016 6:56 PM