The new smart contact lenses help patients see again

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A partnership led by Imec has developed smart contact lenses that have an artificial iris. This iris has a functional aperture that improves visual clarity and distance vision, as well as limits the amount of light allowed in the eyes. The new contact lens could restore normal vision in patients with iris disorders or other eye conditions.

Patients with conditions such as aniridia – in which the iris is absent – or keratoconus – a disease of the cornea that causes sensitivity to light – could benefit from the new intelligent mechanism. Other eye disorders and some unrelated eye conditions, such as migraines, can also cause photophobia: a symptom of sensitivity to extreme light. Patients with photophobia may also wear new smart contact lenses to reduce the amount of light that enters their pupils.

Current options for these patients include contact with a fixed iris, iris implants, or light-activated variable transparency glasses. These options do not mimic the complete natural function of the iris. Users may still have difficulty seeing in the distance and other visual impairments, even if they wear smart contact lenses.

Smart contact lenses have a flexible, miniaturized liquid crystal display (LCD). The LCD screen is adapted to open and close the tiny concentric rings embedded in the lens, getting closer to the function of the natural iris. The low-power smart device runs for a whole day without the need to recharge.

Imec, a research and development center focused on digital and nanoelectronic technology, has worked with Center for Microsystems Technology, a research laboratory affiliated with Ghent University from Belgium and with partners from Jiménez Díaz Foundation Health Research Institute from Spain and Holst Center from the Netherlands. The team published its study in a recent paper in the journal Scientific Reports from Nature. The team will continue to develop the technology and seek clinical validation through an incubation project funded by imec.xpand.

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