More and more people are suffering from dry eye syndrome. This shouldn't really be a surprise when we consider how much time each day people spend looking at a computer, TV, smartphone, or tablet screen. Add contact lenses to the mix, and you have a recipe for dry eye disaster.
The rate of contact lens wearers suffering from dry eye symptoms is currently at an all time high. Although the figures look bleak, one group of Stanford University researchers hopes to reverse this trend with a brand new method for contact lens design.
These researchers have been extensively studying how the eye's surface, the cornea, and contacts interact. They have most recently been engineering high-tech contact lenses that are designed to seamlessly relieve the user's eyes of any dryness.
Apparently the biomaterial these researchers are using will be able to communicate with different cell structures. A few important features of these contact lenses are strong biocompatibility and biomaterial adhesion.
The Stanford group presented their initial findings at the 88th Annual Meeting of The Society of Rheology. Juho Pokki, a Stanford postdoctoral research fellow and a member of this research team, was head speaker at this event. The Society of Rheology held their annual event in Tampa from February 12th to the 16th.
Pokki told reporters that the Stanford team's current contacts are built using a system called "a live-cell monolayer rheometer." This rheometer is built on top of an inverted microscope so the contacts can provide the best adhesion and easily track eye cells.
The group also built an automated system which they used to conduct a wide variety of microscale experiments. Pokki said the team learned just how "smart" the cornea cells structures are throughout their tests.
As Pokki put it, "Corneal cell mechanics and cell adhesion are altered for different corneal surface conditions, such as changes caused by disease, and different contact lenses." This information will help immensely in the construction of the contact lenses of the future. Everyone in the Stanford group agrees that the key finding from their research is the mechanical complexity of the corneal surface cells.
Dry eye is an extremely common condition. A few symptoms of this disease include eye stinging, redness, puffiness, and general discomfort. Besides taking artificial tears, doctors recommend only staring into an electronic screen for twenty minutes at a time to combat dry eye syndrome.
Stanford researchers hope all the information they have collected thus far will help determine the most biocompatible materials for developing contacts resistant to dry eye. These researchers also believe their work can help medical students interested in designing prosthetic electronic skin.
Pokki said his group's findings will help contact lens manufacturers develop more intuitive lens designs in the future. He also believes this information can help designers create more personalized contact designs that naturally adhere to each patient's specific eyes. Hopefully, with all of this research, new contact lenses will soon be available to combat the global dry eye epidemic.