By Stephanie Stahl


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A light emitting contact lens is being developed to treat a common cause of vision loss.

This is for the millions of people with diabetes who live with the dread of eventually losing their eyesight.

Now, scientists are developing a glowing contact lens that might help them keep their vision.

Colin Cook watched diabetes take his aunt’s vision and eventually her life. He’s now on a mission to stop the disease from stealing the eyesight of others.

California Institute of Technology graduate student designed glowing contact lenses hoping to treat diabetic retinopathy; a condition that causes blindness in diabetics.

“The small blood vessels that feed the retina begin to die off as a result of the diabetes and so the retina starts to starve from lack of oxygen,” said Cook.

Doctors say diabetic retinopathy progresses the most overnight because our eyes burn more oxygen in the dark than in the light.

So Cook designed his lenses to wear while sleeping, emitting just enough of a glow for the retina to detect.

“To trick the eye into thinking its daytime so the cells aren’t consuming so much oxygen,” said Cook.

He says that helps preserve the cells and the patient’s eyesight.

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Cook says his lenses offer an alternative to painful existing treatments for diabetic retinopathy which include injections in the eye.

While the contacts can maintain their glow up to 12 years, he foresees temporary pairs for users.

“Probably about a year and then get a new pair of lenses,” Cook explained.

Cook says because the contact is so close to the retina and moves with the eye, the glow essentially goes unnoticed by the brain, allowing users to sleep despite the light. He hopes to start testing the lenses in a clinical trial soon.

That’s if he gets the go-ahead from the FDA.

Stephanie Stahl