Kazakh Woman Disfigured After Cancer Misdiagnosis gets Free Surgery in the US (Army Medicine/Flickr) [Representational Image]
Kazakh Woman Disfigured After Cancer Misdiagnosis gets Free Surgery in the US (Army Medicine/Flickr) [Representational Image]Army Medicine/Flickr

Engineers have designed a high-tech, low-power sensor that could be used to track significant changes in the eye and monitor eye disease.

The sensor has been developed by researchers at University of Washington (UW), which can be inserted into a person's eye permanently to measure the changes in eye pressure. During cataract surgery, the sensor embedded in an artificial lens could be placed inside the eye to detect any pressure changes, which would then be transmitting the data using radio frequency chip fitted inside.

"No one has ever put electronics inside the lens of the eye, so this is a little more radical. We have shown this is possible in principle. If you can fit this sensor device into an intraocular lens implant during cataract surgery, it won't require any further surgery for patients."said Karl Böhringer, a UW professor of electrical engineering and of bioengineering, in a news release.

The researchers came out with the technology to ease out eye pressure measurement in glaucoma, a type of disease that damages the optical nerve of the eye that can even lead to blindness. At present, there are two ways to track eye pressure, but both require to see an ophthalmologist.

However, if the new pressure monitoring sensor could be inserted in the eye by ophthalmologists during a cataract surgery, it could save the patients from undergoing a second surgery and could even make replacement lens more functional and smarter.

"The implementation of the monitoring device has to be well-suited clinically and must be designed to be simple and reliable. We want every surgeon who does cataract surgeries to be able to use this." Tueng Shen, a collaborator and UW professor of ophthalmology.

The team of engineers, Brian Otis, an associate professor of electrical engineering along with Yi-Chun Shih and Cagdas Varel, both former doctoral students in electrical engineering, developed the sensor that uses radio frequency for wireless data and power transfer.

"Oftentimes damage to vision is noticed late in the game, and we can't treat patients effectively by the time they are diagnosed with glaucoma. Or, if medications are given, there's no consistent way to check their effectiveness. I think if the cost is reasonable and if the new device offers information that's not measureable by current technology, patients and surgeons would be really eager to adopt it," Shen added.

The research has been funded by Coulter Foundation and the UW. Buddy Ratner, professor of bioengineering and of chemical engineering and Felix Simonovsky, bioengineering research scientist.

The team is working on the prototype to be tested in a genuine artificial lens. Researchers are aiming in designing an affordable lens for patients and have filed patents on an early prototype of the pressure-monitoring device.

The research was published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.