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Auburn professor creates drug-releasing contacts

'Smart' lenses capable of delivering constant amount of medication over time without altering wearer’s natural vision

1130 Auburn smart contact lens

Credit: Submitted photo

Submitted photoThis photo provided by Dr. Mark E. Byrne, an associate professor at Auburn University, shows a "smart" contact lens, which provides a new method to deliver eye medications.

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A contact lens developed at Auburn University is bringing the future of eye medication delivery into clearer view.

An AU team of chemical and biomedical engineers led by Dr. Mark Byrne, a Daniel F. and Josephine Breeden associate professor in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, has developed a new method to deliver eye medications via contact lenses.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate recently that these (lenses) work in the body,” said Byrne, who began developing his "smart" contact lenses in 2004. “Eye drops may soon be a thing of the past.”

The smart contact lenses are the first to be capable of delivering a constant amount of medication to the wearer over an extended period of time without altering the wearer’s natural vision.

Byrne said the smart contact lenses — composed of polymer, water and medication — are able to deliver medications, such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and antihistamines, in appropriate dosages based on its chemical structure.

“These results are much better than anything on the market today,” said Byrne, who added that the smart contact lens could move to the production phase in the near future.

The optically clear lenses would be treated as combination devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to the fact that, in addition to correcting vision, they would also administer drugs.

Byrne’s daily-wear smart contacts can be worn for up to 24 hours and extended-wear lenses can be worn for up to 30 days, according to an AU news release.

“This is one of those projects that I’m really happy to see keep going,” Byrne said. “It’s going to be somewhat of a game-changer to the field.”

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