Smart LED contact lenses for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy

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Diabetes is a chronic, long-term disease with many complications and requires lifelong care. The longer a patient has had diabetes, the higher the risk of developing retinopathy which can gradually lead to decreased vision and even blindness.

A POSTECH research team led by Prof. Sei Kwang Hahn and Ph.D. Candidate Geon-Hui Lee (Department of Materials Science and Engineering) in collaboration with Dr. Sangbaie Shin of PHI BIOMED Co. recently developed a wearable device smart contact lens type to prevent diabetic retinopathy and treat it in its early stages by irradiating 120µW far red/LED light to the retina. This technology for smart LED contact lenses has attracted great attention for various eye diseases.

Diabetic retinopathy is currently treated with repeated highly invasive therapeutic injections into the eyeball or thousands of small burns made with a laser to destroy capillaries near the edges of the retina under anesthesia. Both procedures are considered very painful for the patient.

Through the study with diabetic animal models, the researchers confirmed that diabetic retinopathy did not appear in animals that wore the smart contact lenses for 15 minutes 3 times a week for a total of 8 weeks. In contrast, animals that did not wear the lenses exhibited retinopathic conditions. The safety and efficacy of the lenses were also confirmed by histological analysis of the cornea and retina.

“This study demonstrated the feasibility of a wearable lens-like device for applications not only in monitoring oxygen saturation, heart rate, and ophthalmological diseases, but also in the treatment of depression, insomnia, neuronal diseases and more,” remarked Professor Sei Kwang. Han who conducted the study.

Published in the international academic journal Advanced sciencesThis study was conducted with support from the Nano Material Technology Development Program, Disease-Oriented Translational Research, Mid-Career Research Program, Brain Korea 21 Fostering Outstanding Universities (FOUR) Project and the Korea Medical Device Development Fund of the National Research Foundation of Korea, and by the World Class 300 Project of the Ministry of SMEs and Startups of Korea.

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Materials provided by Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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