Emerging Technologies

Smart contact lenses to monitor or treat humans

In this article we take a closer look at smart contact lenses as an emergent technology with great innovative potential for medical devices and health trackers.

Wearable devices monitoring a person’s health status are very common in our modern society. Currently, most are used to track and document a person’s fitness activities, but it is expected that this sensing and measuring technology will also be used in the future for diagnosis, therapy and disease prevention. It can objectively measure a person’s health and transfer this data to (health)care providers that can respond to changes in the data. One of these devices already developed is an electronic digital tattoo that can measure electrophysiological parameters, such as heart rate, but is currently only used at the Intensive Care Unit.

In the optical field, smart contact lenses are a highly innovative emerging technology to watch over the coming year. These contact lenses can act as medical devices or health trackers. As a medical device, the lenses will be equipped with thousands of biosensors that can pick up early indicators of, for example, but not limited to, cancer. There are already devices that can monitor the pressure in a person’s eye, to help in the treatment of glaucoma. In addition, there is a lens in development that can track physiological glucose levels from tears. Researchers were able to attach transparent, flexible electronics to the lens that will not block the vision while it can wirelessly ensure the glucose sensors are running.

Next to a monitoring function, there are also smart lenses in development that can treat patients. Multiple companies are developing contact lenses for continuous drug delivery to the eye for conditions such as glaucoma or infections on the eye. Another medical direction for smart lenses is the ability to use the lenses as a ‘bandage’ for eye surface injuries, which can be a valuable treatment for heat and chemical injuries of the eyes.

Smart contact lenses may sound like science-fiction, but a lot of research and development is going on in this field as illustrated. Therefore, we expect the smart lenses to revolutionize the ophthalmology research field and we cannot wait to see all the companies launching their lenses that can improve the lives of a lot of people worldwide. There are currently excellent funding opportunities in this area.

 

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