Vision Purdue University Biomedical engineer Chi-Huan Li to develop a smart, soft contact lens that can accurately measure intraocular pressure (IOP) in a person’s eye could be the latest answer to stopping glaucoma-related blindness.
Lee, Leslie A. Geddes Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University Weldon School of Biomedical Engineeringled a research team that developed a new eye technology to continuously monitor patients’ IOP readings more comfortably and accurately.
This technology serves as another option for eye specialists to identify glaucoma, which, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, can steal a person’s vision without early warning signs or pain and affects more than 80 million people worldwide.
The only known modifiable risk factor is lowering a person’s intraocular pressure, which is difficult to monitor for long periods of time, especially during sleep.
While tests can be done in a specialized office and monitoring systems are available at home, all of these have their limitations. For example, in-office procedures are time-consuming, current in-house technology is difficult to use, inconvenient and does not collect enough data at appropriate time intervals or over long enough timescales for specialists to use the information appropriately to make optimal treatment decisions.
The new technology was highlighted in a study published in the journal Nature Connections. The study compares Purdue’s technology to the current gold standard and other home monitoring systems and examines how Purdue’s technology can collect important IOP measurements for 24-hour cycles, even while you sleep.
The technology was developed by a multidisciplinary group of healthcare engineers and researchers from Purdue University’s Colleges of Engineering and Veterinary Medicine and Indiana University’s College of Optometry.
The largest increase in IOP often occurs while people are lying down, when the overnight IOP is usually 10% to 20% greater than the daytime IOP. Vision loss during sleep may occur without the patient noticing, even if measurements in the clinic or at home during the day indicate a normal IOP,” says Lee, who has a joint appointment at the School of Mechanical Engineering and a courtesy appointment at the School of Materials Engineering.
Lee, who has worked on this technology for six years, specializes in stectronics, which are label-like items that contain electronics or smart technology. His lab develops wearable biomedical devices that can continuously monitor chronic diseases or health conditions in an unobtrusive manner.
Dr. Pete Kohlbaum, professor and associate dean of research at the Indiana University School of Optometry and director of the school’s Borich Eye Research Center, has worked with Lee since 2019. She has assisted the Kohlbaum Clinical Optometry Research Laboratory group, which researches contact lens technologies. With human clinical testing and providing feedback to improve the design.
Some of today’s wearable tonometers – or devices that measure pressure inside the eye – have an integrated circuit chip, which is thicker and stiffer than typical commercial soft contact lenses, in many cases causing inconvenience to patients. My version is different.
“To meet this unmet need, we have developed a unique class of smart soft contact lenses based on different brands of soft contact lenses for 24-hour continuous IOP monitoring, even while you sleep at home,” Lee said.
Our smart soft contact lenses retain the intrinsic lens attributes of lens strength, biocompatibility, softness, transparency, wettability, oxygen transmissibility and all-night wear. Having all of these features at the same time is critical to the successful translation of smart soft contact lenses into glaucoma care, but these features are not available in current wearable tonometers.”
The tonometer on the developed Purdue contact lens sensor creates a wireless recording that is sent to a receiver in a pair of glasses to measure IOP during the day and a sleep mask to measure IOP at sleep.
24-hour complete IOP rhythm data can be shared with remote clinicians via an encrypted server. The tonometer can emit an audible alert to detect elevated intraocular pressure, allowing appropriate action to be taken and reducing the need for clinic visits.
“This tonometer is significantly more comfortable than any other type of contact lens sensor we have come across and more comfortable than any IOP sensor currently on the market,” Kollbaum said. “This has to do with the technology Lee uses to apply the sensor to the lens, retaining a very thin universal sensor, the fact that the lens itself is a time-tested, commercially available lens, and the benefit from clinical studies and the associated time and money that contact lens manufacturers have spent to ensure obtaining Comfortable lens.
Not only do specialized contact lenses provide clear vision, just like any contact lens, Kollbaum said, but the technology is also expanding the benefits to both patients and eye specialists, who have wanted less expensive and more comfortable ways to monitor eye changes for years.
He told me, “The eye is a very tough part of the body, it’s even softer, more delicate, and curved when compared to the skin.” “We hope that our approach will also be designed to help and detect other chronic eye diseases and for other functions.” Lee and colleagues have a proposal for additional clinical trials in glaucoma patients who have dry eye disease or who have undergone glaucoma surgery. They are also working with Boomerang Ventures, with whom Purdue is a partnership, to integrate the technology into clinical practice.
In addition to Lee and Kollbaum, members of the research team were Shin Ae Park, Seul Ah Lee, Bryan W. Boudouris, Yumin Dai, Keely E. Harris, Bongjoong Kim, Ho Joong Kim, Kyunghun Kim, and Hyowon (Hugh) Lee, Kangying Liu, Haesoo Moon, Woohyun Park, Jay V. Shah, and Jinyuan Zhang of Purdue; Dawn Meyer of Indiana University College of Optometry; and Pedro Irazuki and Brett Tawk of Johns Hopkins University.
The technology was disclosed to Purdue Research’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), which has applied for a provisional patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office to protect intellectual property. For information on licensing opportunities, contact Patrick Finnerty of OTC at firstname.lastname@example.org about 2021-LEE-69240.
Lee’s work at the Weldon College of Biomedical Engineering is just one of the many life-changing projects being undertaken by faculty and students in biomedical engineering. Many of these projects are partnerships between Weldon, healthcare providers, medical researchers, and medical device companies that are instrumental in moving aspects from classrooms and research laboratories to clinical settings.