Emerging research suggests that a smart LED contact lens may help us combat diabetic retinopathy. What do we need to know about it?
Is Reversing Retinopathy in Sight?
Smart technology is paving the way for novel advancements in medicine, and emerging tools may offer us a new way to treat patients with diabetic retinopathy.Apublication entitled, “Smart Wireless Near-Infrared Light Emitting Contact Lens for the Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy,” researchers found that a smart light-emitting diode (LED) contact lens may offer an alternative treatment approachto traditional methods, such as injections, lasers, and surgery.
By delivering controlled LED light to the eye, clinicians can eliminate invasive treatments, ultimately leading to improved patient adherence.
This smart LED contact lens combines wireless far red/near-infrared (FR/NIR) light technology to deliver continuous treatment. And while this novel technology hasn’t been tested in humans yet, preliminary studies in rabbits have shown that significant results can be accomplished in just eight weeks by wearing the lens for 15 minutes at a time, three times a week.
While further research is still needed for this novel technology, it’s already demonstrated promising safety results. In preliminary studies, an optical and histological analysis of rabbit corneas, retinal thickness, temperature, and molecular targets showed that the lens didn’t lead to any significant changes.
While the exact mechanism of photobiomodulation on the prevention and treatment on diabetic retinopathy remains unclear, it’s suggested that FR/NIR light canincrease nitric oxide (NO), a known modulator of blood vessel relaxation, and dilate blood vessels, which can increase blood flow and provide much needed nutrients to tissues as a complication of diabetes. Blood flow maintenance is particularly important in established vessels to reduce the development of new leaky capillaries as a response to the occluded vessels.
This innovation builds upon the previously demonstrated work by the same group on the use of electronically controlled smart contact lenses for glucose monitoring and drug delivery to help manage diabetes. According to researchers, “this smart LED contact lens would be harnessed as a next-generation wearable device to achieve the on-demand medication for ubiquitous healthcare applications to various ocular and other diseases using different light sources.”
Smart contact lenses have the potential to not only improve eye health, but also the diabetes epidemic itself. By equipping ourselves with the tools to improve glucose monitoring and avoid invasive treatments, we cannot only better diagnose and manage diabetes and prevent diabetic retinopathy, but also improve patient adherence and quality of life.
Keum, Do Hee, Su-Kyoung Kim, Jahyun Koo, Geon-Hui Lee, Cheonhoo Jeon, Jee Won Mok, Beom Ho Mun, et al. 2020. “Wireless Smart Contact Lens for Diabetic Diagnosis and Therapy.” Scientific Advances 6 (April): 1–12. https://www.science.org/doi/pdf/10.1126/sciadv.aba3252.
Geon-Hui Lee, Cheonhoo Jeon, Won Jee, SangbaieMok, Su-Kyoung Shin, Hye Hyeon Kim, Seong-Jong Han, et al. 2022. “Smart Wireless Near-Infrared Light Emitting Contact Lens for the Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy.” https://doi.org/10.1002/advs.202103254.