without surgery. A non-invasive solution to the problems of cataracts affecting 70% of people over the age of 65 in Spain. If this ocular pathology is not treated in time, it can lead to blindness. Physicist Alba Paniagua Díaz, a postdoctoral researcher at the Optics Laboratory of the University of Murcia, is in full development of smart glasses that allow to correct the blurred vision caused by this condition. All this without going through the operating room. This innovative technology to combat cataracts has been awarded a Leonardo grant from the BBVA Foundation, which will help promote trials “that allow us to efficiently address this ocular correction, as well as optimize the optics of the portable system.” studies the various methods of shortening.”
Cataracts are “opacity of the lens of the eye that impairs vision”, a pathology whose effects can be compared to trying to see through a foggy window. “What these opacifications do is scatter the light that reaches the retina, creating a halo around the image, which blurs and reduces the contrast of the images,” says Paniagua. The project seeks to propose a similar solution to what happens with other vision problems. “Although it is possible to have surgery for myopia and the results are quite good, there are many people who choose not to have surgery and continue to wear glasses”, although this optical defect is already quite advanced.
The glasses work with a “liquid crystal electronic modulator”, a device capable of modulating light on a very small scale, which allows “pre-compensation for the dispersion of light when it reaches the declination”. Taking the example from before, the idea is similar to that of conventional glasses for myopia: «We place a glass in front of the eye to pre-compensate for the excess of refraction of the myopic crystalline lens, since here it is the liquid crystal modulator that pre-compensates. -compensates dilatation of cataracts with the aim of recovering clear vision».
The research carried out so far has made it possible to demonstrate the possibility of correcting this dispersion of light in crystalline lenses “by placing the measuring instruments in front of an artificial eye with a cataract, which was a major challenge.” One of the latest advances has made it possible to fix this dispersion by means of an “ex vivo human cataract lens”, a point that has allowed us to optimize the process and “demonstrate the feasibility of our proposal”. In addition, these glasses, being electronic, only need to be recalibrated when the cataract progresses, but not replaced.
To date, the physicists at UMU say, all results have been “very positive.” However, “we still need to do some more testing in the lab” and miniaturize the optical system before we can start testing it with patients. These glasses, which can be useful from the moment the cataract begins to disturb the vision, can at the same time be adapted and correct any other type of refractive problem, such as myopia or astigmatism, among others, Paniagua telling.
Researchers at the University of Murcia make it clear that these glasses will not be able to prevent the development of cataracts, but only correct vision. “While we have not yet studied this in detail, there are other pathologies that cause opacity in the cornea in which this technique may also be useful, but that will be studied later.” Using the same technology, the Optics Laboratory is also developing other glasses that make it possible to act on other eye aberrations such as keratoconus or corneal scars.
Science focuses on intraocular lenses
Cataracts have always been a “problem of social interest,” says UMU researcher Alba Paniagua. Faced with this pathology, science has paid a lot of attention to it, he explains, “although these efforts have been mainly directed towards the development of better intraocular lenses (which replace the crystalline lens with cataracts in surgery).” This approach follows the latest models developed at Voptica, a Spanish spin-off of the Optics Laboratory of the University of Murcia.