Progressive ocular diseases such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are sneaky. The diseases often start with minimal effect and advance unnoticed until causing significant and irreparable damage. Early treatment is highly desirable with ocular diseases, as with most health conditions and diseases. Once a disease has taken hold, periodic or continuous monitoring is crucial to help medical professionals know when it’s time for advanced treatment. But monitoring patients’ eyes can require frequent office visits, in some cases at shorter and shorter intervals as the disease progresses.

We’ve written about other new tech to monitor ocular disease. Sensimed’s Triggerfish contact lenses measures changes in the eye’s circumference to track progressive glaucoma. Implandata’s glaucoma monitoring Eyemate System consists of an implanted pressure microsensor, a data reader/recorder, and software in the physician’s office. VisionCare’s CentraSight implant sits behind the iris and replaces the eye’s central vision for patients with AMD. CentraSight is a solution, not an AMD progression monitor.

Purdue University researchers recently published a paper in Nature Communications documenting their work developing commercial soft contact lenses that monitor ocular diseases. The Purdue technology pushes the puck down the ice in two important ways. According to the research team, biosensor fabrication on soft contacts was a non-starter because the process required a flat, rigid surface. The Purdue process employs ultrathin, stretchable biosensors bonded to commercial soft contact lenses with a wet adhesive. The other big step is that the sensors can detect electrophysiological retinal activity from the surface of the cornea. Previous technology limited corneal surface monitoring to clinical settings and requires topical anesthesia.

The current version of the soft contact lens biosensing system isn’t optimal. The contact uses a wired connection to transfer data. As this work progresses, hopefully a wireless solution will increase the technology’s mobility and aesthetics, making it more convenient for patients to use. The potential for patients to insert a biosensor-equipped soft contact lens at home to monitor ocular disease progression or to check for early signs of disease is a massive advance. Even if patients only used the lens once a week, the chance to save vision or prolong disease progression is wonderful.