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Brief Published: 13 Dec 2013

Smart Contact Lens Treats Glaucoma


Researchers at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Children’s Hospital have developed a contact lens capable of administering treatment for glaucoma – the world’s number one cause of blindness.

The lens uses a thin polymer film of latanprost – a common drug treatment for glaucoma. Latanprost is usually administered via eyedrops, but patients often fail to complete the full course of treatment.

“In general, eyedrops are an inefficient method of drug delivery that has notoriously poor patient adherence,” said Joseph Ciolino, cornea specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear infirmary and lead author of the paper. “This contact lens design can potentially be used as a treatment for glaucoma and as a platform for other ocular drug delivery applications.”

In the past, a major barrier to ocular drug delivery has been ensuring controlled drug release over the course of a day. The new lens is capable of delivering large amounts of drug at constant rates over weeks or even months. The lenses can be made with or without corrective lens prescriptions according to each patient’s needs. The lenses could also be used to administer other medication.

Medical scientists are at the cutting edge of emerging body-hacking technologies. The eye is a key area of focus: medical applications of bionic eye systems that enable electronically simulated vision are being explored by Bionic Vision Australia, while prosthetic eye devices are becoming publicly available.

For more pioneering projects, see Technological Body Modification and Next: Designing Life, part of our Macro Trend Balanced Values.