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Armed with wireless sensor, contact lens aims to head off glaucoma

STMicroelectronics, an embedded chip maker, and Sensimed AG, a medical device maker, are teaming up on a smart contact lens that can detect eye pressure and transmit data so physicians can better diagnose and optimize treatments for glaucoma.

STMicroelectronics, an embedded chip maker, and Sensimed AG, a medical device maker, are teaming up on a smart contact lens that can detect eye pressure and transmit data so physicians can better diagnose and optimize treatments for glaucoma.

Here's how the companies explained the contact lens:

  • A wireless Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (or MEMS) will be a sensor that transmits data to the Sensimed platform.
  • Sensimed's system, dubbed Triggerfish, includes a contact lens that uses an embedded strain gauge that measures the curvature of the eye over a time period, say a day.
  • The contact lens has an antenna, dedicated processing unit and transmitter. The lens is powered by radio waves so it doesn't need to be connected to a battery.
  • The lens transmits information such as eye measurements to a receiver that's worn around the patient's neck.
  • Data transmitted from the lens provides information that can't be discovered using traditional ophthalmic equipment. The standard test for glaucoma is via an instrument called a tonometer that measures eye pressure. The problem is that the tonometer usually finds issues after glaucoma has progressed too far.

Glaucoma, which can't be cured, is the second most common cause of blindness. If the disease is caught early it can be controlled. Simply put, the STM-Sensimed collaboration could be well received if it can diagnose glaucoma early enough.

According to the companies, the contact lens components are positioned so they don't interfere with a patient's vision. The Sensimed Triggerfish platform is being used in trials and is commercially available in some areas around the world.

STM said that its engineers are working with Sensimed to mass produce the products. Development of the STM sensor should be completed in the second quarter with manufacturing to start in the third quarter. Sensimed and STM said they will roll out the product across Europe first and then enter the U.S. market at the end of 2011 pending regulatory approval.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com