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Here’s How Blue Light Harms Your Eyes, According to a New Study

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It creates ‘cell killers.’

Researchers at The University of Toledo believe they’ve figured out the process by which blue light from digital devices and the sun damages the eyesight.

It transforms vital molecules in the eye’s retina into cell killers, according to a study they published recently in the journal Scientific Reports. And that leads to age-related macular degeneration.

“We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” said Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina. Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop.”

Macular degeneration is the death of photoreceptor cells in the retina. Those cells need molecules called retinal to sense light and trigger a cascade of signaling to the brain, a press release from the University of Toledo explains.

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“You need a continuous supply of retinal molecules if you want to see,” Karunarathne said. “Photoreceptors are useless without retinal, which is produced in the eye.”

Karunarathne’s lab found that blue light exposure causes retinal to trigger reactions that generate poisonous chemical molecules in photoreceptor cells.

“It’s toxic. If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signaling molecule on the membrane dissolves,” said Kasun Ratnayake, a PhD student researcher working in Karunarathne’s cellular photo chemistry group. “Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they’re dead, they’re dead for good.”

Karunarathne introduced retinal molecules to other cell types in the body, such as cancer cells, heart cells and neurons. When exposed to blue light, these cell types died as a result of the combination with retinal. Blue light alone or retinal without blue light had no effect on cells.

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The researcher found that a molecule called alpha tocopherol, a vitamin E derivative and a natural antioxidant in the eye and body, stops the cells from dying. However, as a person ages or the immune system is suppressed, people lose the ability to fight against the attack by retinal and blue light.

The lab currently is measuring light coming from television, cell phone and tablet screens to get a better understanding of how the cells in the eyes respond to everyday blue light exposure.

“If you look at the amount of light coming out of your cell phone, it’s not great but it seems tolerable,” said Dr. John Payton, visiting assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Some cell phone companies are adding blue-light filters to the screens, and I think that is a good idea.”

To protect your eyes from blue light, Karunarathne advises to wear sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light outside and avoid looking at cell phones or tablets in the dark.

Karunarathne added: “By learning more about the mechanisms of blindness in search of a method to intercept toxic reactions caused by the combination of retinal and blue light, we hope to find a way to protect the vision of children growing up in a high-tech world.”

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This Contact Lens Puts a Screen Display Directly in Your Eye

The company has raised more than $100M.

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Mojo Contact Lenses

SARATOGA, CA — Mojo Vision announced that it is building “the world’s first true smart contact lens,” called the Mojo Lens.

Mojo Lens is a contact lens with a built-in display that “gives people the useful and timely information they want without forcing them to look down at a screen or losing focus on the people and the world around them,” according to a press release from the company.

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The company is currently demonstrating a working prototype of the device. Mojo said it is conducting feasibility clinical studies for R&D iteration purposes under an Institutional Review Board approval. The Mojo Lens is currently in the research and development phase and is not available for sale anywhere in the world.

Mojo Vision so far has raised over $100 million in investment from NEA, Shanda Group, Khosla Ventures, Advantech, Gradient Ventures, HP Tech Ventures, Motorola Solutions, LG Electronics, Liberty Global, Fusion Fund and others.

Mojo calls the eyes-up experience Invisible Computing. The Mojo Lens is designed to be useful in a variety of situations, from consumer to enterprise. Additionally, the company is planning an early application of the product designed to help people struggling with low vision through enhanced image overlays. This application of the Mojo Lens is designed to provide real-time contrast and lighting enhancements as well as zoom functionality. With its inconspicuous contact lens form factor, Mojo Lens is designed to serve as a low-vision aid that could remain discreet for the wearer and allow a hands-free experience, while delivering enhanced functional vision to assist in mobility, reading, and sighting, the company explained.

In businesses and organizations, the Mojo Lens is being designed to give workers or specialists access to real-time information, thus improving productivity, precision and compliance while eliminating the need to look down at a mobile device or through a headset.

The Mojo Lens incorporates technologies including “the smallest and densest dynamic display ever made, the world’s most power-efficient image sensor optimized for computer vision, a custom wireless radio, and motion sensors for eye-tracking and image stabilization,” according to the release.

The company added:

The Mojo Lens includes the Mojo Vision 14K PPI Display, announced in May 2019. The display delivers a world-record pixel pitch of over 14,000ppi and a pixel density of over 200Mppi², making it the smallest, densest display ever designed for dynamic — or moving — content.

“After extensive research, development, and testing, we are excited to reveal our product plans and begin sharing details about this transformative platform,” said Drew Perkins, CEO at Mojo Vision. “Mojo has a vision for Invisible Computing where you have the information you want when you want it and are not bombarded or distracted by data when you don’t. The technology should be helpful, and it should be available in the moment and fade away when you want to focus on the world around you.”

“The Mojo Lens is the first step in delivering Invisible Computing to the world. We look forward to sharing more information and demonstrating future prototypes as we get closer to bringing our product to market.”

Mojo also announced that it is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration through its Breakthrough Device Program, a voluntary program designed to provide safe and timely access to medical devices that can help treat irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions. By receiving Breakthrough Device designation for the development of the Mojo Lens, Mojo will work directly with FDA experts to get feedback, prioritize reviews and develop a final product that meets or exceeds safety regulations and standards, according to the release.

Mojo Vision also announced a new partnership with Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit which offers rehabilitation services to more than 3,000 children and adults with blindness or impaired vision each year. Through the partnership, Vista Center clients will play a direct role in defining Mojo’s innovative technology and providing input to the company’s team of scientists and engineers. In turn, Mojo “will be able to deliver better, more user-friendly devices to market, contribute to vision rehabilitation, and improve the quality of life for Vista Center clients and others with similar needs,” according to the release.

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Report Reveals HSA Spending Habits, Including Vision’s Share

Health Savings Account platform provider Lively released a new report.

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SAN FRANCISCO — About 5 percent of Health Savings Account money went toward vision and eyewear in 2019, according to a new report.

The HSA Spend Report from HSA platform provider Lively provides a view into how and where consumers spend on healthcare costs each year.

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The findings show that overall, 96 percent of annual contributions were spent on expected expenses and routine visits, “indicating that the rising cost of healthcare is preventing people from achieving the long-term benefits of using an HSA to save for unexpected health events and the high cost of healthcare in retirement.”

“Rising healthcare costs will have serious implications on the wellbeing of individuals and families,” said Shobin Uralil, COO and Co-Founder of Lively. “As much as people are increasingly putting HSA money aside, our 2019 report alerts us to one dangerous outcome: rather than saving funds to create a safety net for healthcare costs into retirement, Americans have to use almost the entirety of their HSAs to cover basic health needs every year.”

Where did the money go?

In 2019, the average HSA account holder spent their savings on doctor visits and services (50 percent); prescription drug costs (10 percent); dental care (16 percent); vision and eyewear (5 percent); chiropractor (3 percent); lab work (2 percent); and other (1 percent).

Other key findings and trends:

While traditional pharmacies lead in healthcare spending, superstores and online retailers are becoming increasingly popular for consumer health spending.

  • Traditional national pharmacies reign supreme: Of the total 10 percent Rx spend, 76 percent of transactions were at Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid.
  • Superstores are nipping at their heels: 8 percent of spending happened at pharmacies in Target, Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club.
  • Amazon is lurking: While only a small percentage of HSA purchases occurred through Amazon, the web giant captured a large portion of web and mobile purchases (vs. in-store).
  • Online spending is key for vision and mental health: More than 15 percent of all HSA vision and eyecare spending happened online, dominated by 1-800-Contacts and Warby Parker. Additionally, more than 15 percent of all mental health spending was through virtual experience apps, and/or digital experiences that connect consumers to mental health professionals.

Healthcare spending increased across all categories.

  • Doctor visits & services spending increased moderately by 22 percent, from 41 percent in 2018 to 50 percent in 2019.
  • Hospital spending increased 114 percent – from 7 percent in 2018 to 15 percent in 2019.
  • Dental spending increased 78 percent – from 9 percent in 2018 to 16 percent in 2019.

“High deductible healthcare plans are the new norm, and that’s not going to change anytime soon,” said Uralil. “Combine that with rising healthcare costs in almost every consumer spend category, HSAs are now vital to affording everyday necessities in this country. As such, we must ensure that Americans with HDHPs take advantage of HSAs to put more savings in their pockets.”

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These Self-Moisturizing Contact Lenses Combat Dry Eye

The system uses electroosmotic flow.

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Moisturizing Contact Lenses

(PRESS RELEASE) Researchers at Tohoku University have developed a new type of smart contact lenses that they say can prevent dry eyes. The self-moisturizing system, which is described in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies, maintains a layer of fluid between the contact lens and the eye.

Smart contact lenses are wearable devices that could accelerate vision beyond natural human capabilities, according to a press release from the university. They are being developed for a wide range of applications, from non-invasive monitoring to vision correction to augmented reality display.

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“Although there have been many recent advancements in new functions for smart contact lenses, there has been little progress in solving the drawbacks associated with wearing contact lenses day to day,” says Professor Matsuhiko Nishizawa, an engineer at Tohoku University.

One of the biggest problems with contact lenses is they can cause “dry eye syndrome” due to reduced blinking and increased moisture evaporation. Dry eye syndrome can lead to corneal wounds and inflammation as well as a feeling of discomfort.

In order to tackle the problem, the researchers developed a new mechanism that keeps the lens moist. The system uses electroosmotic flow (EOF), which causes liquid to flow when a voltage is applied across a charged surface. In this case, a current applied to a hydrogel causes fluid to flow upwards from the patient’s temporary tear reservoir behind the lower eyelid to the surface of the eye.

“This is the first demonstration that EOF in a soft contact lens can keep the lens moist,” says Nishizawa.

The researchers also explored the possibility of using a wireless power supply for the contact lenses. They tested two types of battery, a magnesium-oxygen battery and an enzymatic fructose-oxygen fuel cell, both of which are known to be safe and non-toxic for living cells. They showed that the system can be successfully powered by these biobatteries, which can be mounted directly on the charged contact lens.

Further research is needed to develop improved self-moisturizing contact lenses that are tougher and capable of operating at smaller currents.

“In the future, there is scope to expand this technology for other applications, such as drug delivery,” says Nishizawa.

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