Contacts are good for more than giving you perfect vision — lenses are also used to deliver medicine for glaucoma, cataracts, and other problems, but current technology forces the medication to spill out into the eye within an hour. A new type of contact lens developed by Anuj Chauhan, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Florida, is filled with vitamin E that constructs a so-called “chemical wall” in the lens — a tweak that allows medications to be dispensed in a matter of hours instead of days.
The process works because vitamin E is hydrophobic, while most drugs made for eye diseases are hydrophilic (water-loving). That means medication has to move around the vitamin E chemical wall to get into the eye, thus delaying the dispensing process. Chauhan’s theory has already been proven correct in lab experiments — the vitamin E-packed lenses released drugs for 100 times longer than current medicated lenses.
But don’t start hunting for a new contact lens prescription quite yet. Chauhan’s lenses still have to go through human clinical trials — a process that can take over five years. But eventually, vitamin E lenses could make common problems like dry eye practically nonexistent, at least for lens-wearers.