Printing A Rainbow: The Technological Advances In Correcting Color Vision

This story is part of a series on the current progression in Regenerative Medicine. This piece is part of a series dedicated to the eye and improvements in restoring vision. 


In 1999, I defined regenerative medicine as the collection of interventions that restore tissues and organs damaged by disease, injured by trauma, or worn by time to normal function. I include a full spectrum of chemical, gene, and protein-based medicines, cell-based therapies, and biomechanical interventions that achieve that goal.


Recently, the news about specialized glasses designed for those with color blindness has garnered the attention of people worldwide. For many, the ability to distinguish between colors in everyday life is taken for granted. However, for people living with this condition, the impact can be debilitating, making it challenging to perform even the simplest tasks.


Color blindness is a common genetic disorder affecting a large population segment. It is estimated that around 8% of men and 0.5% of women globally have a form of color blindness. Despite its prevalence, there is still a lack of effective treatments for this condition. 


However, with the advent of 3D printing technology, researchers and clinicians are developing new and innovative ways to address the needs of those suffering from color blindness. This piece will explore how a 3D-printed contact lens can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with color blindness.


From Current Treatments To Future Vision


Current options to correct the color deficiency are limited. One of the most popular types of color correction lenses is offered by companies like Enchroma. These lenses block specific wavelengths of light that interfere with the ability to differentiate between colors. While these lenses are effective for some people, they are not always successful for everyone. Additionally, they are often expensive and can be challenging to obtain.


This is where 3D-printed contacts for color blindness come into play. Researchers from Khalifa University have developed a new technique that involves creating a contact lens with a unique design that can help correct color blindness. The lens filters out specific wavelengths of light to enhance contrast between colors, much like how the glasses lenses work. This innovative approach has significant potential to change the lives of those suffering from color blindness.


Creating 3D Printed Contacts


Creating contact lenses to correct color blindness is a complex and fascinating process that requires specialized knowledge and skills. The first step involves using a 3D printer to create a mold of the contact lens. This mold is then filled with a technical organic material developed to correct different types of color blindness. The material is carefully selected based on its optical properties and ability to adhere to the mold surface.

The next step is to cure the material by exposing it to heat or UV light. The curing process ensures that the material retains its shape and properties and is firmly attached to the mold surface. Once the material has cured, the mold is removed, leaving behind a solid piece of the color-correcting material with the shape of the contact lens.


The final step is to polish the lens to a smooth finish. This involves using specialized tools and techniques to remove any imperfections and to create a lens surface that is perfectly smooth and transparent. This process is critical to ensure the lens provides clear and accurate vision. The result is a custom-designed contact lens tailored to the individual’s eye. 


The Promise of 3D Printed Contacts for Color Blindness


Recent studies have shown promising results for 3D-printed contact lenses as a solution for color blindness. One study by the Journal of Macromolecular Materials and Engineering investigated using 3D-printed hydrogel contact lenses with embedded color-correcting dyes. The study found that the lenses effectively improved color vision in individuals with red-green color blindness.


Another study published in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering focused on developing tunable light-filtering technology for 3D-printed contact lenses. The study found that by incorporating pH-sensitive dyes into the lenses, the colors perceived by the wearer could be adjusted based on the pH level of their tears. This technology can potentially provide personalized color correction tailored to each individual’s needs.


However, it’s important to note that these lenses are currently only tailored to specific types of color blindness. Therefore, individuals with different color deficiencies may not benefit from this technology. Furthermore, these lenses are still in the experimental stages and are unavailable commercially.


Despite these limitations, the potential for 3D-printed contacts to improve color perception in those with color blindness is significant. 


A Vision of the Future with 3D Printed Contacts


The development of 3D-printed contacts for color blindness is a significant milestone in personalized care. These contacts can potentially revolutionize how we treat color blindness, offering a more effective and customized solution. For those with severe color blindness, the connections could provide a life-changing solution to improve their quality of life significantly. This is a step forward in the right direction. With further development and refinement, 3D-printed contacts can become a widely adopted solution for color blindness.

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.