It’s been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul but in these tech-driven times, the eyes can also function as a diagnostic tool for our health. Something as simple as an eye exam can detect serious disease, such as high blood pressure, the onset of diabetes or a life-threatening condition.

A trip to the eye doctor turned serious for Jobson’s VP Dennis Murphy last spring, when the Optos image showed some hemorrhages on his peripheral retina. His eye exam led to a trip to an ophthalmologist and eventually to a noted vascular surgeon who repaired two carotid arteries that were severely blocked.

Today, there are several products in the pipeline that use the eyes as a diagnostic tool for diseases other than ophthalmic conditions. NeuroVision Imaging is developing and studying an experimental noninvasive, eye-imaging system for measuring autofluorescence, which can detect amyloid beta (AB) plaque in the eye. AB plaque deposits in the brain are a marker for Alzheimer’s disease, and evidence shows this plaque also accumulates in the retina, the photoreceptor and nerve complex at the rear of the eye. NeuroVision is so keen on the new system they’ve hired Roy Ervin Twyman, MD, PhD, an academic neurologist in neuroscience pharma drug development.

Another product in the diagnostic pipeline are smart contact lenses that function as a blood-sugar monitor. According to IEEE Spectrum, an engineering and applied sciences publication, Korean researchers have designed a stretchable contact lens that can monitor glucose without distorting the wearer’s vision. Jang-Ung Park, an associate professor at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea, co-authored a report on the experimental CLs containing embedded electronics and predicts commercialization could happen in the next five years.

Yes, the eyes are certainly opening up possibilities for both diagnosing and monitoring diseases. It promises to be a brave new world.