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Study to Measure Benefits of Eyeglasses for Toddlers

Researchers received a $4.1M grant for the work.

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(PRESS RELEASE) A team of University of Arizona researchers has received a five-year, $4.1 million grant to study whether using eyeglasses to correct astigmatism in toddlers improves language, cognitive and motor development.

The study, funded by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, is the first to use wearable sensors to determine how often children age 3 or younger are wearing their eyeglasses. Dubbed the SPEC Trial, for Spectacle Prescribing in Early Childhood, the project is designed to help parents and pediatricians determine if the benefits of treatment outweigh the expense and supervision required for eyeglasses for young children.

“Children who are nearsighted can see fine up close, and children who are farsighted can see fine at a distance, but for children with astigmatism, everything is blurry,” said Erin M. Harvey, associate professor of ophthalmology and public health and co-principal investigator for the project. “The critical questions, then, are if eyeglasses are prescribed for astigmatism in this age range, will children wear them, and will they produce a measurable impact on vision and language, cognitive and motor development?”

With advances in technology, instrument-based vision screening is performed routinely at well-child checks beginning when a child turns 1 year old. Evidence-based treatment recommendations for asymptomatic children with moderate astigmatism, however, have not kept up with the advances in technology, and currently there are no rigorous, peer-reviewed data on spectacle wear to use for clinical guidance.

“The work being done by Dr. Harvey and Dr. Miller is a great example of how Fourth Industrial Revolution technology can improve human health in unprecedented ways,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “Eyeglasses are, of course, not particularly high tech. But using sensors to determine whether and how much children are wearing eyeglasses is an innovation that has been made possible by the convergence of the physical, biological and data sciences. I look forward to following their progress and I am hopeful that their work will show how we can make a big difference for children with vision problems.”

Astigmatism is the most prevalent type of vision problem in children between 1 and 3 years old, a time of immense physical and cognitive development. As a child grows, the shape of the eye changes and, in some cases, astigmatism can disappear. Evidence also suggests that using eyeglasses to treat young children with astigmatism may stimulate the development of normal vision.

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“Based on years of experience, we know that some children love their glasses and will wear them, and some children don’t and won’t,” said Dr. Joseph M. Miller, professor and head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science and the other co-principal investigator on the project. “So, the question is, if they wear their glasses to see better, do they do better?”

Working with local pediatricians from El Rio Health and Banner-University clinics, the researchers will divide children with astigmatism, ages 12-35 months, into two groups. The team will prescribe eyeglasses and provide traditional support to one group. They will also prescribe eyeglasses to the second group but will offer significant additional clinical support to encourage the children to wear their eyeglasses.

Simply asking parents to track wear time does not result in reliable data needed for a clinical trial, so Harvey came up with the idea of putting a heat-sensitive sensor on the eyeglasses strap.

“Comparing body temperature to room temperature fluctuations at 15-minute intervals, the button tracking device allows us to accurately measure when the eyeglasses are being worn,” Harvey said.

The team decided to use the sensor while keeping in mind concerns about the safety of button batteries and children swallowing the device. The sensor attaches to the strap and is encased in puncture resistant, medical-grade, heat-shrink tubing.

Addressing concerns about medical privacy was important to Harvey and Miller as well. The sensor does not collect any identifiable data – only date, time and temperature – and only transmits the data when it is within inches of the computer programmed to receive the information.

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The team will collect the sensors and replace the eyeglass straps every two months. When the children turn 3 years old, the researchers will test their vision and measure their language, cognitive and motor development outcomes, using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development. By correlating those results with wear-time data, Harvey and Miller will be able to determine whether more clinical support made a difference in how often the children wore their eyeglasses, and if more wear time had measurable effects on outcomes.

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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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