Researchers at Purdue University have developed soft contact lenses that not only works as a contact lens but also can monitor glucose and medical conditions and be used to track intraocular pressure and drug delivery directly into the eyes.
In the past, sensors could not be used for soft contact lenses because it required a rigid, planar surface which is not compatible with the soft, curved shape of a contact lens. The research team, led by Chi Hwan Lee, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at Purdue, developed an innovative method for sticking sensors and other small devices to soft contact lenses.
“We developed a very unique technology that enables the integration of thin film sensors with a commercially available soft contact lens,” Lee said. “These current hydrogel-based contacts serve as the perfect platform for smart lens systems due to their high degree of comfortability, biocompatibility, breathability and long-term wearability. Before our discovery, it was challenging to fabricate high-performance electronics on commercially available soft contact lenses.”
The sensors were able to measure glucose, lactate and pH value within the tears of the eye in a continuous manner, providing information linked with diabetes, hypoxia and ocular tissue health. More advanced eye care applications should be possible, as many other sensors can be miniaturized by combining soft, contact lenses with various semiconductor devices.
“This technology is highly novel and will significantly expand the functionality of existing soft contact lenses,” Lee said. “This technology will also form a basis to further extend the functionality of the smart soft contact lens system for many other envisioned applications, including controlled release of ocular drugs, eye-wearable night vision and augmented reality.”
The technology needs to be developed further, but Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization helped get a patent for the technology and it is available for licensing.
About Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization
The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization runs one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among the foremost research universities in the United States. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university’s academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, winner of the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation, presented by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.