Self-Lubricating, Living Contact Lenses

The increasing prevalence of dry eye syndrome in aging and digital societies compromises long-term contact lens (CL) wear and forces users to regular eye drop instillation to alleviate discomfort. Here a novel approach with the potential to improve and extend the lubrication properties of CLs is presented. This is achieved by embedding lubricant-secreting biofactories within the CL material. The self-replenishable reservoirs autonomously produce and release hyaluronic acid (HA), a natural lubrication and wetting agent, long term. The hydrogel matrix regulates the growth of the biofactories and the HA production, and allows the diffusion of nutrients and HA for at least 3 weeks. The continuous release of HA sustainably reduces the friction coefficient of the CL surface. A self-lubricating CL prototype is presented, where the functional biofactories are contained in a functional ring at the lens periphery, outside of the vision area. The device is cytocompatible and fulfils physicochemical requirements of commercial CLs. The fabrication process is compatible with current manufacturing processes of CLs for vision correction. It is envisioned that the durable-by-design approach in living CL could enable long-term wear comfort for CL users and minimize the need for lubricating eye drops.