Eyes, it is said, are the window to the soul. In my world, they are also a portal to remarkable new levels of insight that have the potential to transform the lives of millions. The race is on to develop the technology that will enable next-generation smart implants and contact lenses to diagnose, monitor and treat a wide range of chronic and degenerative diseases.
Next Generation wireless powering platform.
As head of ophthalmology here at Cambridge Consultants, I’m expecting a new impetus to innovation as we edge back towards some sort of post-pandemic normality. Ophthalmology is of course traditionally practiced within a clinical environment, in a style that can best be described as up close and personal. But despite the obvious challenges, significant opportunities are emerging as the trend for telemedicine gains momentum after the ‘great pause’ of 2020.
One hurdle in the way of a new generation of sophisticated implants is the charging and powering necessary for seamless integration into the patient’s lifestyle. So, I’m delighted to report on a recent breakthrough involving MagLense, a patented technology of Cambridge Consultants. The technology enables – for the first time – 24/7 implant powering and functionality without the need to implant batteries. This eliminates the significant risks of having batteries in electroactive implants in the eye.
Pressure on global healthcare
We’ve been witnessing rapid advances in medical technologies for some time of course. The extraordinary changes in population demographics and an increasingly aging population are putting unprecedented pressure on the global healthcare system.
Medicine is looking to technology for answers, and ophthalmology is no exception. New drugs and therapies are getting approval, improved surgical tools are emerging and big players like Google, Alcon and Novartis are introducing novel smart lenses and implants to help with common diseases such as diabetes and age-related macular degeneration.
Now is the time to push the boundaries. I don’t doubt that in the near future implants will enable ever more sophisticated tasks and complex decision making. But to be successful, the user’s journey must be seamless. Tasks such as charging, powering throughout the day and data transfer should fit effortlessly into everyday activities.
The obvious solution is to integrate those functionalities into a pair of spectacles or a sleep mask. But it’s a real challenge to achieve smooth interaction between the electromagnetic fields needed for powering and communications and the implant itself.
Induction power transfer
With MagLense, wireless powering or battery charging of an implant is achieved using induction power transfer. It uses the magnetic field of a transmitter coil to generate a current in the receiver coil in the implant. The efficiency of the coupling between the coils – and hence energy generation in the implant – drops rapidly if the two coils are not parallel to each other.
In ophthalmology, implants can be located anywhere within the eye. A coil mounted on spectacles can only be efficient for a subset of implant geometries and only when the patient is gazing in the right direction.
But MagLense presents a configurable option to efficiently transfer power to an implant. It considers the irregular shape of the human body and the difficulty patients face in aligning a charger and an implant ‘blindly’. Sophisticated algorithms and multiple coils are used to sense the position and orientation of the receiving coil and to shape the magnetic field dynamically. This maximises energy transfer to the implant.
By making continuous 24/7 powering possible without the need to implant batteries, MagLense can support the development of solutions that can integrate easily into the patient’s lifestyle. Powering devices can couple efficiently to the implants independent of face features – and will not be adversely affected while the user moves around by day or when sleeping.