Interdisciplinary project "Maintaining...


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Interdisciplinary project "Maintaining sharp vision even in old age"

Carl Zeiss Foundation supports interdisciplinary project "Maintaining sharp vision even in old age" at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen

The Carl Zeiss Foundation is funding an interdisciplinary project intending to develop neuronally controlled contact and intraocular lenses that allow sharp near vision even in old age and thus counteract widespread presbyopia with a total of EUR 2.8 million.

The project, which is supported with a further EUR 0.6 million by the University of Tübingen, the Medical Faculty and the Center for Ophthalmology at the University Tübingen, is part of the call for proposals "Intelligent Solutions for an Aging Society" within the funding line "Breakthroughs at Universities 2020" of the Carl Zeiss Foundation.

Picture 1: Increase of near point distance with increasing age. From: Zrenner E & Eysel U (2013) Visuelles System. In Physiologie, Speckmann E-J Hescheler J & Köhling R (eds) pp 84–123. München: Elsevier
Picture 2: Electrical potentials of the ciliary muscle during accommodation depending on the distance.

Presbyopia is the gradual loss of the eye's ability to adapt to close objects with increasing age. In the young eye, the refractive power is adjusted by shaping the elastic eye lens through the ciliary muscle. However, with advancing age, the elasticity of the eye lens steadily decreases so that between 40 to 50 years the distance necessary for sharp vision increases to 50 cm. At about 70 years, sharp near vision is no longer possible at all (Picture 1).

Although presbyopia is not a disease but an age-related loss of function, its effects are considerable: In 2015, approximately 2 billion people were affected [1] and thus impaired in their daily activities, such as driving [2]–[6]. Globally, the resulting loss of productivity is projected up to USD 11 billion [7].

Up to now, compensation of presbyopia has only been achieved with reading glasses or contact lenses, or by replacing the natural lens with an artificial intraocular lens within the treatment of cataract. A technical solution corresponding to the natural accommodation of the young eye is still not available.

Previous studies of the research group Pathophysiology of Vision at the Institute for Ophthalmic Research at the University of Tübingen under the direction of Prof. Dr. med. Dr. h.c. mult. Eberhart Zrenner successfully demonstrated that novel contact lens electrodes allow to measure the electrical potential changes of the ciliary muscle during accommodation and to use them to control an artificial lens (Picture 2).

Dr. sc. hum. Torsten Straßer
Picture 3: Sketch of the eyemateTM intraocular pressure sensor from Implandata GmbH

In the funded project, biomimetic wireless contact or intraocular lenses are to be developed, based on the previous results, which can imitate the natural accommodation ability of the young eye, to give back all liberties in everyday life to presbyopes.

For this purpose, a new interdisciplinary junior research group under the direction of Dr. sc. hum. Torsten Straßer will be established at the Institute for Ophthalmic Research, which will cooperate with the University Eye Hospital Tübingen, the Core Facility for Medical Bioanalytics and the STZ eyetrial at the Centre for Ophthalmology Tübingen[4], the Institute for Microelectronics at the University of Ulm and the Institute for Microsystems Technology at Furtwangen University of Applied Sciences.

The research group closely cooperates with its industrial project partner Implandata Ophthalmic Products GmbH, who has already successfully marketed eyemateTM, a wireless, CE-certified intraocular pressure sensor. This sensor allows for the continuous measurement of the intraocular pressure for glaucoma prevention (Picture 3) and has been successfully tested in several studies [8], [9].

With increasing age, everyone will be affected at some point by presbyopia, giving the technologies being developed in this project the potential to help all people, and therefore, they are - in terms of the funding guideline - a real breakthrough as an intelligent solution for an aging society.

About the Carl Zeiss Foundation

Founded in 1889 by the physicist and mathematician Ernst Abbe, the Carl Zeiss Foundation is one of the oldest and biggest private science funding institutions in Germany. The Foundation considers itself to be a partner for people engaged in visionary and outstanding academic work in the fields of natural science and engineering. Basic research and application-orientated science are equally important to it. The goal is to create an open environment for scientific breakthroughs in both disciplines. The Carl Zeiss Foundation is a funding institution in the federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia. It finances its funding activities through dividends paid by the two foundation companies Carl Zeiss AG and SCHOTT AG.


  1. T. R. Fricke et al., “Global Prevalence of Presbyopia and Vision Impairment from Uncorrected Presbyopia,” Ophthalmology, vol. 125, no. 10, pp. 1492–1499, Oct. 2018.
  2. V. Daien, “Visual Impairment, Optical Correction, and Their Impact on Activity Limitations in Elderly Persons: The POLA Study,” Arch. Intern. Med., vol. 171, no. 13, p. 1206, Jul. 2011.
  3. B. E. K. Klein, R. Klein, K. E. Lee, and K. J. Cruickshanks, “Performance-based and self-assessed measures of visual function as related to history of falls, hip fractures, and measured gait time,” Ophthalmology, vol. 105, no. 1, pp. 160–164, Jan. 1998.
  4. R. Q. Ivers, P. Mitchell, and R. G. Cumming, “Sensory impairment and driving: the Blue Mountains Eye Study.,” Am. J. Public Health, vol. 89, no. 1, pp. 85–87, Jan. 1999.
  5. C. E. Sherrod, S. Vitale, K. D. Frick, and P. Y. Ramulu, “Association of Vision Loss and Work Status in the United States,” JAMA Ophthalmol., vol. 132, no. 10, p. 1239, Oct. 2014.
  6. T. Hong, P. Mitchell, G. Burlutsky, B. Gopinath, G. Liew, and J. J. Wang, “Visual impairment and depressive symptoms in an older Australian cohort: longitudinal findings from the Blue Mountains Eye Study,” Br. J. Ophthalmol., vol. 99, no. 8, pp. 1017–1021, Aug. 2015.
  7. K. D. Frick, S. M. Joy, D. A. Wilson, K. S. Naidoo, and B. A. Holden, “The Global Burden of Potential Productivity Loss from Uncorrected Presbyopia,” Ophthalmology, vol. 122, no. 8, pp. 1706–1710, Aug. 2015.
  8. L. Choritz et al., “Telemetric Measurement of Intraocular Pressure via an Implantable Pressure Sensor—12-Month Results from the ARGOS-02 Trial,” Am. J. Ophthalmol., vol. 209, pp. 187–196, Jan. 2020.
  9. A. Koutsonas, P. Walter, G. Roessler, and N. Plange, “Implantation of a Novel Telemetric Intraocular Pressure Sensor in Patients With Glaucoma (ARGOS Study): 1-Year Results,” Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci., vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 1063–1069, Feb. 2015.


Dr. Torsten Straßer

Forschungsinstitut für Augenheilkunde
Universitätsklinikum Tübingen
Elfriede-Aulhorn-Str. 7,
72076 Tübingen

Tel: +49 7071 29 8 7793
E-mail: torsten.strasser[at]