Contact Lenses, Now Measuring Glucose Levels

    January 22, 2014
    Mike Tuttle

Diabetes plagues approximately 1 in 20 people in the world. Left untreated, it can cause severe complications, including death. Since 1921, medications have been available to control or treat diabetes; however, glucose monitoring has been living in the past, using a prick to the skin to to draw blood to put on a chemically-active test strip. But all of that may be about to change.

Google, the multinational corporation specializing in Internet-related products and services, is working on a project to better help millions of diabetics manage their glucose levels: the Google contact lens.

As well as blood, tears can also provide glucose measurements since almost all of the bodily fluids of diabetics have trace amounts of sugar in them, according to I4U News.

The “smart” lens would use a tiny wireless chip and a miniature glucose sensor between two layers of of soft contact lens material and could generate a reading once per second.

According to Google, the lens could also be an “early warning” for diabetics and they are exploring the idea of including tiny LED lights on the lens that light up when insulin levels get too high or low.

However, Google is still in discussion with the Food and Drug Administration and the new lens could be many years away from public purchase.

On Thursday, January 16, Google posted on their blog page:

“You’ve probably heard that diabetes is a huge and growing problem—affecting one in every 19 people on the planet. But you may not be familiar with the daily struggle that many people with diabetes face as they try to keep their blood sugar levels under control. Uncontrolled blood sugar puts people at risk for a range of dangerous complications, some short-term and others longer term, including damage to the eyes, kidneys and heart. A friend of ours told us she worries about her mom, who once passed out from low blood sugar and drove her car off the road.

Many people I’ve talked to say managing their diabetes is like having a part-time job. Glucose levels change frequently with normal activity like exercising or eating or even sweating. Sudden spikes or precipitous drops are dangerous and not uncommon, requiring round-the-clock monitoring. Although some people wear glucose monitors with a glucose sensor embedded under their skin, all people with diabetes must still prick their finger and test drops of blood throughout the day. It’s disruptive, and it’s painful. And, as a result, many people with diabetes check their blood glucose less often than they should.

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. These partners will use our technology for a smart contact lens and develop apps that would make the measurements available to the wearer and their doctor. 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.”

In the past, Google has also produced items such as Android, the mobile operation system; the driverless car, and Internet-connected eyewear.

Image via YouTube