I’ve been a lifelong admirer of and advocate for science, in no small part because of that show and other idealistic portrayals of science’s transformative effect. Sci-fi posits a medical world that can conquer disease, trauma and degeneration, extend our lifespan and even augment human capabilities. It fires up the imagination and gives researchers the audacity to believe they can change the world.
Do we have the technology? For Steve Austin, no—at least not yet. But we’ve made progress on many fronts that gives tangible benefits today and optimism for tomorrow.
Ophthalmologist Mark Humayun has spent nearly 30 years working to advance the cause of restoring sight in severe low vision patients. His retinal implant may not match Steve Austin’s bionic eye, but it gives some functional vision to retinitis pigmentosa patients who otherwise would be completely sightless. We’re honored to have a contribution from him in this issue on innovation. On page 46, he and his colleagues explain the arduous work and hard-won gains achieved in developing the Argus II epiretinal implant.
So-called smart contact lenses—another staple of science fiction—may actually deliver on their slate of promises. Already, the Sensimed Triggerfish lens can measure ocular changes in glaucoma that correlate with IOP. Well underway are efforts to deliver on-eye biometric monitoring of glucose levels in diabetes patients and real-time accommodation for presbyopes. Some of the more ambitious—and, for privacy advocates, troubling—proposed uses include image and video recording embedded in a contact lens and the ability to add a layer of augmented reality to the wearer’s field of view. On page 54, optometrists Brian Chou and Jerome Legerton report on this fast-moving frontier.
Technology looks ready to finally crack the compliance problem, with sustained-release glaucoma devices that would obviate the need for patient-administered medications. Shira Kresch, OD, profiles many exciting projects in her article on page 40. While some topics featured this month are moonshots, this one looks capable of delivering real-world results to millions—soon.
Advances that enable cutting-edge stem cell therapy for corneal healing are the focus of the article by James Thimons, OD, on page 33. Patients once destined for graft surgery might benefit from a safer, simpler procedure. “It is rare in a clinician’s lifetime to witness the birth of a new technology, but with today’s stem cell advancements, we stand at the dawn of a true paradigm shift,” says Dr. Thimons in his feature. “Welcome to the future.”