These Contact Lenses Dispense Drugs While You Wear Them

These Contact Lenses Dispense Drugs While You Wear Them

For you contact wearers that’ve had enough of trying to aim those tiny eye drops on the bullseye, you might want to listen up.

A research team has developed a revolutionary contact lens system that slowly delivers medication to your eyes while they’re worn.

No, your vision isn’t blurring: these self-medicating lenses mean no more fumbling with vials, or dropping the solution on your face, nose, ears, and any other place besides your eyeballs.

Featured in the journal Ophthalmology this week, the lens design is sleek, with a thin film that harbours the meds. The middle of the lens stays clear, with the drugs along the periphery. Another useful feature, these lens don’t even need to be exclusive to those with less than 20/20 vision. The center can have no refractive power, employing the device for eye health purposes. Nearsightedness or farsightedness can both be corrected, too.

In the study, the scientists used latanoprost, a medication for glaucoma. They tested how the new lenses performed vs. traditional daily eyedrops. These early studies were done on monkeys; human testing has begun through clinical trials, though the data is not yet available.

Glaucoma is arguably the most devastating eye condition around, and is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. While there’s no cure, its symptoms can be slowed by using medication that alleviates pressure on the eyes. The issue has always been that these meds produce an uncomfortable burning sensation, leading to people with prescriptions turning away from them.

Janet B. Serle, a specialist in the disease who works at Icahn School of Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, says the new lenses “removes the burden of administration from the patient and ensures consistent delivery of medication to the eye, eliminating the ongoing concern of patient compliance with dosing.”

This is just one of many studies that are fiddling with standard contact lenses.

Verily, formerly the Google life sciences unit, has partnered with a Swiss pharmaceutical maker on a ‘smart’ lens that doubles a sensor which monitors blood glucose levels for diabetes patients.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin are developing technology — based on how the elephant nose fish sees – that consistently adjusts the cornea with the lens. The engineering logistics were a challenge: “They include designing the lens, algorithm-driven sensors, and miniature electronic circuits that adjust the shape of the lens, plus creating a power source — all embedded within a soft, flexible material that fits over the eye.”

The University of Michigan’s Zhaohui Zhong, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, might be the most ambitious. The Zhong team is developing lenses that with an extra-thin film that senses wavelengths our eyes can’t detect. If they can successfully implement the technology, it could mean contacts with thermal vision in the future.

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