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Liquid Crystal Lens Implants Could Replace Reading Glasses

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Presbyopia

Presbyopia – far-sightedness resulting from the loss of elasticity and flexibility in the eye’s lens – is common in people over 45 years of age.

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October 19, 2015 | by Sarah Massey

Eye lens replacements – constructed from the same liquid crystal used in TV and smartphone screens – are being developed at the University of Leeds in England, to replace reading glasses in older adults. Presbyopia – far-sightedness resulting from the loss of elasticity and flexibility in the eye’s lens – is common in people over 45 years of age. As a result, people with presbyopia often need reading glasses in order to see things up-close.

“As we get older, the lens in our eye stiffens – when the muscles in the eye contract they can no longer shape the lens to bring close objects into focus,” said Devesh Mistry, a research student at the University of Leeds School of Physics and Astronomy, and the researcher developing the artificial lens. His research utilizes liquid crystal material to create adjustable replacements for the worn-out lenses in the eyes of people with presbyopia.

While the lens is still in the R&D stage, Devesh plans to fabricate a prototype by 2018 – the projected end of his doctorate degree. Within ten years, the researchers predict the lens could be implanted in a quick and simple procedure – much like the popular laser eye surgery of today.

During the proposed procedure, the patient would be treated using a local anesthetic, and their old lens would be broken down by directed ultrasound through a small incision in the cornea of the eye. The liquid crystal lens would then be inserted through the same incision, and a patient’s vision would be corrected.



Currently, lens replacements are used to treat cataracts – a clouding of the eye’s lens – which also commonly affects older individuals, and can be a side-effect of other illnesses. The liquid crystal lens in development by Devesh could also be used to treat cataracts.

According to Devesh, “Liquid crystals are a very under-rated phase of matter. Everybody's happy with solids, liquids and gases and the phases of matter, but liquid crystals lie between crystalline solids and liquids. They have an ordered structure like a crystal, but they can also flow like a liquid and respond to stimuli.”

Devesh’s research builds upon previous work using liquid crystal technology to fashion a contact lens whose focus could be controlled using electrical stimulation. He collaborates with the scientists who performed the research, and are now with Eurolens Research at the University of Manchester, and UltraVision CLPL. The latter is a contact lens company specializing in custom orders, and is run by two researchers who studied at the University of Leeds.

Along with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Ultravision CLPL, Devesh was also awarded an Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. The Industrial Fellowship could provide up to £80,000 of funding for researchers that are collaborating with both academic and business partners.

“I'm thrilled that Devesh has won the RC1851 Industrial Fellowship,” said Professor Helen Gleeson, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds. “This will support an excellent student working on an exciting project that involves optometry, physics and engineering, helping us to take our research ideas towards a practical device.”

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Keywords: Lens, Cataract, Prototype 


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