Swiss scientists have developed groundbreaking new contact lenses with a built-in telescope that could help many patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) regain full sight.
The 1.55-milimeter thick lens, developed by researchers at Lausanne-based École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), contains an extremely thin, reflective telescope.
The pair of contact lenses work in conjunction with a special pair of liquid crystal glasses linked to an electronic system. To activate the lens, users must be equipped with specially adapted glasses that are sensitive to winks, but do not take any notice of blinks. If users wink with their right eye, the lens zooms in and if they wink with their left eye the telescope is turned off.
The research was funded by Pentagon’s research agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
“The most compelling reason why you would want to have this is to help people with serious visual problems, such as macular degeneration, or other retinal illnesses where people have severe vision loss,” said EPFL designer Dr. Eric Tremblay.
The latest version has so far been tested on five people. For every use, it can only be worn for half an hour because the rigid lens doesn’t allow oxygen to pass through.
However, the designers are hopeful that it could be available in two years and offer a safer and cheaper alternative than surgery.