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Wireless MEMS Sensor-Embedded Contact Lens for Glaucoma Treatment

STMicroelectronics (ST), a leading global vendor of Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) devices for portable and consumer applications, will develop a wireless MEMS sensor.

Smart Contact Lens from STMicroelectronics

This sensor will function as a mechanical support, antenna, and transducer for additional read-out electronics systems. The sensor will function through an innovative platform created by Sensimed AG, a Swiss firm. This solution will facilitate improved management of patients suffering from glaucoma using earlier diagnosis and treatment, which is customized to each patient.

The solution, called the SENSIMED Triggerfish, is built on a smart contact lens. This solution utilizes a miniature embedded strain gauge for measuring the eye’s curvature for a duration of 24 hours to provide useful disease management data. Conventional ophthalmic equipment presently used does not provide such data.

The second most common reason for the occurrence of blindness worldwide is Glaucoma(3). Glaucoma(3) is an irreversible progressive disease related to the optic nerve. If diagnosed and treated correctly, the progress of the disease is controllable, though incurable. The tonometer instrument is used to measure intraocular pressure (IOP), and forms the standard test. The test is conducted by an ophthalmologist during patient’s visits. The tonometer, however, may not detect an IOP, particularly in glaucoma patients, since during the day the pressure keeps on changing and peaks after office hours and during sleep. Due to this fact, the disease is diagnosed after the optical nerve is damaged already, and the disease starts worsening due to insufficient treatment in many patients.

The unique solution developed by Sensimed consists of a two-part system that incorporates a tiny receiver worn by the patient around his neck and the smart contact lens. Besides the strain gauge the lens incorporates an RF transmitter, a miniature dedicated processing circuit, and an antenna for conveying measurements made to the receiver.

Radio waves are used to power the smart lens, thus obviating the need to connect the lens to a battery. The lens has embedded components positioned in it in such a manner that that the components do not interfere with the vision of the patient. The ophthalmologist fixes the lens and removes it lens along with the receiver when the patient reports to him the next day, thereby getting a record of changes in IOP during the past 24 hours.

Jean-Marc Wismer, Sensimed’s CEO, revealed that application trials are authenticating the advantages of the unique platform of Sensimed and the next action will be to commercialize the product for use in many centers in chosen geographical regions. Wismer explained that Sensimed decided to partner ST in this venture since ST has an unbeaten track record related to the development and delivery of precise MEMS sensors and its willingness to work with innovative customers.

The SENSIMED Triggerfish has received the CE mark(4) and is presently undergoing many trials and is available commercially in chosen centers. Dr. Kaweh Mansouri who uses the Triggerfish at the Geneva, Switzerland-based University Hospital revealed that it is user-friendly and has enabled and enhanced patient care to a great extent.

Currently ST and Sensimed engineers are jointly working to transform this innovative technology into a commercial and dependable MEMS product that can be manufactured in a large scale. ST hopes that the MEMS sensor development will be over in the second quarter of 2010, followed by production in the third quarter of 2010 and finally emerge in the U.S. market by 2011 end.

Benedetto Vigna, STMicroelectronics' General Manager of MEMS, Sensors and High Performance Analog division, informed that ST has focused strongly to develop and manufacture wireless sensor networks for application related to medicine and diagnostics. Vigna explained that the on-body, self-powered, wireless-enabled sensor will be incorporated in a product that has a great potential to help millions of patient suffering from glaucoma and also people who are risk against this disease. Vigna added that the innovative application developed by Sensimed has proved that it is possible to combine two different knowledge types and disciplines by collaborating with healthcare specialists, and using the manufacturing infrastructure to enhance the wellbeing and health of people worldwide.


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