Pricking your finger several times a day may soon be a thing of the past. Google announced that they have begun testing a smart contact lens designed to measure glucose levels in the user's eye. Investigators say that tears can provide as accurate a reading as pricking a finger and testing the blood. Due to the difficulty of collection, tears have proved hard to test—until now.
A tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor are embedded between two layers of soft biocompatible contact lens material. The prototypes are designed to test glucose readings once per second, and transmit the information, via radio frequencies, to an external device. The miniature electronics can’t be seen by the user's eye; chips are no larger than bits of glitter and an antenna is thinner than a human hair.
Future prototypes may be integrated with tiny LED lights, which could serve as an early warning for the user if glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds.
Google is in discussion with the FDA to move the system forward and is looking for partners who can help bring the product to market. Company officials hope that these partners will be able to use their technology for the smart contact lens and create apps that would make the measurements viewable by the user and their doctor.
Despite being a new technology, other companies have previously exhibited a similar concept. In 2011 Microsoft Research Projects created a video to showcase a functional contact lens to monitor blood sugar.
In their announcement, Google project co-founders Brain Otis and Babak Parviz said, “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 is declaring that the world is ‘losing the battle’ against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot.”
With readings being recorded once per second, diabetic patients may soon have a way to monitor those sudden spikes or precipitous drops. Google says it’s early for this technology but they hope someday to lead a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.
Image via Google
To learn more on this topic:
Technology to Help Diabetes Control: Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM)
4 Smart Phone Apps to Help Manage Diabetes
Diabetics' Demand for Smartphone Healthcare Outpaces Technology