January 17, 2014
Google Smart Contact Lens May Help Diabetics Monitor Blood Sugar
[ Watch the Video: Google Shows Off 'Smart' Contact Lens For Diabetics ]
Diabetes is a fast growing problem across the world, with nearly one in 20 people suffering from the dangerous disease. Millions of people with this disease often struggle to keep their blood sugar levels under control. And when their blood sugar is uncontrolled, it can lead to dangerous health issues such as heart disease and stroke, as well as causing kidney and eye damage.
Speaking of the eye, Google researchers Brian Otis and Babak Parvis have now developed a contact lens that could one day be used to monitor blood sugar levels in diabetics.
Because many people feel like “managing their diabetes is like having a part-time job,” a device that could take away some of the work involved in diabetes management could go a long way in giving people a little more peace of mind. And because blood sugar spikes and drops are common and dangerous with diabetics, some people require “round-the-clock monitoring.”
Some diabetics already where glucose monitors with a sensor embedded under the skin to monitor blood sugar levels. Despite this, all diabetics are still required to prick their fingers daily for a blood sugar reading, which is often disruptive and painful. Because of this, many people check their readings less often than they should.
Scientists have long been studying better ways to manage diabetes and have investigated how body fluids – such as tears – could be used in taking accurate glucose readings. However, because it is difficult to collect tears, studying them is next to impossible.
This is where Otis, Parvis and their project comes into play. They believe their new smart contact lens could help.
By integrating tiny electronics – chips, sensors and antenna – on a lens, researchers may have an accurate way to track a person’s glucose through their tears. The contact lens would utilize a wireless chip and miniaturized sensor embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material.
The researchers already have a prototype that can test glucose once per second. They are investigating the device to see if it can also serve as an early warning system for the wearer. As part of this, the team have incorporated tiny LED lights that light up when glucose levels reach dangerous highs and lows.
While the device is still in its infancy and not ready to make its way into the eyes of diabetics, the team said the technology is there. Multiple clinical research studies have already been conducted, which have helped the team refine the prototype. With the continued successes, Otis, and Parvis hope the device could someday “lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.”
“We’re in discussions with the FDA, but there’s still a lot more work to do to turn this technology into a system that people can use. We’re not going to do this alone: we plan to look for partners who are experts in bringing products like this to market,” wrote the team in an official Google blog.
The team adds that partners would use their technology for smart contact lenses and also develop apps that would help both the patient and their doctor keep tabs on their blood sugar levels.
“We’ve always said that we’d seek out projects that seem a bit speculative or strange, and at a time when the International Diabetes Federation (PDF) is declaring that the world is 'losing the battle' against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot,” the team wrote.