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True Story of Poly(2-Hydroxyethyl Methacrylate)-Based Contact Lenses: How Did It Really Happen

Miroslava Duskova-Smrckova
Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
Bio
Jiří Podešva
Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
Bio
Jiří Michálek
Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
Bio

Published 2022-07-18

Keywords

  • hydrogels,
  • contact lenses,
  • intraocular lenses,
  • poly(2 hydroxyethyl methacrylate),
  • Otto Wichterle

How to Cite

Duskova-Smrckova, M., Podešva, J., & Michálek, J. (2022). True Story of Poly(2-Hydroxyethyl Methacrylate)-Based Contact Lenses: How Did It Really Happen. Substantia. https://doi.org/10.36253/Substantia-1591

Abstract

Soft hydrogel contact lenses represent the most famous and commercially successful application of poly(2‑hydroxyethyl methacrylate). The scarcely crosslinked network of this hydrophilic polymer finds its use also in many other fields, be it in (bio)medicine or technology. Moreover, the polymer itself and its crosslinked forms, discovered more or less serendipitously in the early fifties by a group of Czech chemists, is extremely interesting due to its exceptional properties: it readily swells in water, is optically clear, soft, biologically compatible, sufficiently strong, stable, gas-permeable, cheap, and easy to produce. Looking for its as-yet undiscovered qualities and possible utilization still continues. The story of the invention of hydrogel contact lenses was referred to many times in various literary sources which, however, contain numerous errors and misinterpretations. In the present article, we put these records straight and present the correct chronology of the hydrogel contact lenses development including the dramatic patent litigation. A brief overview of the chemical nature, properties, and applications of the constitutive substance of the lenses, i.e., the hydrophilic methacrylate, is also given.

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