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Study: Smart contact lens offers continuous monitoring of glaucoma progression

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Smart contact lens--Courtesy of Sensimed

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center have found that smart contact lenses that emit patterns of electrical signals can be used to detect the rate of glaucoma. The smart contact lens system, known as Triggerfish, is from Swiss startup Sensimed and is designed as a diagnostic. It offers an automated, continuous recording of ocular dimensional changes when worn over a 24-hour period.

In addition to the lens itself, Triggerfish includes an adhesive antenna, which is worn around the eye during that period and transmits the data through a cable from the antenna to a portable recorder that's worn around the patient's neck. Data is transferred via Bluetooth from the recorder to software installed on a healthcare provider's computer. This latest data on this lens system was published online today in the journal Ophthalmology.

"What we see in these measurements is a signature that indicates which glaucoma patients will get worse and which are relatively stable, which you can't do with a one-time eye pressure measurement," said study author Dr. C. Gustavo De Moraes, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center. "This could be very useful if you want to know whether a new medication is working for a patient. You can see how their eye is reacting to the therapy in a much more meaningful way."

The Sensimed Triggerfish sensor (1), its antenna (2), the cable (3) through which data is transmitted to the portable recorder (4)--Courtesy of Sensimed

In the study, the Columbia researchers tested the lenses on 40 patients aged 40 to 89 being treated for open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease. Over a period of two years, the scientists performed at least 8 standard visual field tests on them. Half were classified as having slow disease progression with the other half having fast disease progression.

These patients wore the smart contact lens for 24 hours. It works by detecting changes in the lens curvature, which changes with eye pressure fluctuations. The researchers likened its workings to an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor for the heart.

They found that those patients classified as having faster glaucoma progression tended to have steeper pressure spikes overnight and a greater number of peaks in pressure. So, the lenses could prove useful not only for more quickly distinguishing between patients with faster and slower glaucoma progression, as well as for the individual evaluation of the efficacy of a given treatment.

The Sensimed Triggerfish contact lens system used in the study is already approved in Europe, but is not FDA-approved.

- here is the announcement
- read the research abstract

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