A newly-published paper offers a comprehensive review of recent advancements in smart contact lenses, envisioning applications well beyond correcting things like nearsightedness.
The paper will be published on April 1 in the journal Contact Lens and Anterior Eye.
The changes will come from coalescing advancements in biomaterials, nanotechnology, antibacterial agents, and battery miniaturization.
Smart contact lenses to detect diseases
Biomarkers will give rise to diagnostic contact lenses to detect and monitor diseases including diabetes, cancer, and dry eye disease. And progress in integrated circuits will enable in-lens monitoring for glaucoma, and even for early detection of diseases such as hypertension, stroke, and diabetes.
Ocular disease treatment and management will likewise benefit from progress in fluid dynamics, materials science, and microelectronics. Dehydration-resistant materials will offer alternative therapies for dry eye disease. And liquid crystal cells that replicate the pupil and iris will be able to filter incoming light to overcome physiological defects, such as problems with color vision.
More accurate than eye drops in delivering medicines
Drug-delivering contact lenses may offer more accurate dosing than traditional eye drops, and also reduce their many known side effects.
Delivery might come in the form of building nanoparticles into contact lens materials during the manufacturing process. Likewise, molecular imprinting would imbue polymers with memory characteristics that tell it when to dispense medications. This will help replace more invasive procedures.
Smart contact lenses the screens of tomorrow
While smart contact lenses have become associated with on-eye head-up displays, the authors write that optical enhancements extend well beyond those concepts.
For example, embedded microelectronics could constantly monitor gaze direction, and control optical elements to fix presbyopia (age-related vision loss) in real time.
Control lenses are already slowing the growth of myopia in children, responding to one of the most pressing issues in eye health today. And optical and digital display discoveries might soon then extend to the general population to replace or supplement traditional screens.
The paper concludes with an overview of packaging and storage material, as well as design developments that may offer improved hygiene.
Photo: Centre For Ocular Research & Education (CORE)
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