Google's "smart contact lenses" could help
diabetics monitor blood sugar levels

| 6 comments
 

News: scientists at the Google[x] research facility in California are working on contact lenses containing tiny electronics that could constantly monitor glucose levels in the tears of people with diabetes.

"We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturised glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material," said Google in a post published on its official blog.

The contact lenses would be able to generate a reading every second, making it possible to instantly identify potentially dangerous changes in the patient's blood sugar levels.

"We’re also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, so we’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds," the company explained.

As well as minuscule chips and sensors, the lenses could also incorporate an antenna thinner than a human hair that would communicate with apps so patients or doctors could view the measurements on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Diabetes patients are currently required to test their blood sugar levels at regular intervals throughout the day by pricking their finger to draw a tiny amount of blood that can be analysed. The process is painful and time-consuming and can discourage people with diabetes from checking their blood glucose as frequently as they should.

"The one thing I'm excited about is that this is a device that people wear daily - the contact lens," project co-founder Brian Otis told the BBC. "For us to be able to take that platform that exists currently, that people wear, and add intelligence and functionality to it, is really exciting."

Google stressed that the technology is at a fledgling stage in its development but added that it will be seeking out potential partners who could help it refine the hardware and software required to turn the concept into reality.

"It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype," Google claimed. "We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease."

  • Dan James

    As a type 1 Diabetic and a near sighted person, sign me up, I’ll be your guinea pig!

  • Jim Kelly

    Echo Therapeutics has a much more practical glucose monitor. It is a transdermal sensor that just attaches to your skin and doesn’t use a needle like the current Dexcom or Medtronic sensors. You don’t have to put anything in your eye either. Echo is getting their sensor approved in Europe in April, and in the U.S. later this year.

  • pozz

    This would be amazing, but I’m very sceptical.
    How would it “clean the slate” once a second to test the tears without the reading being muddled by the liquid already present? Currently we use a new
    test strip and a fresh drop of blood to ensure there is no such contamination.

  • http://www.andy-matthews.co.uk/ Andy Matthews

    There’s a pretty good article by Om Malik on why this isn’t so great. http://gigaom.com/2014/01/17/one-diabetics-take-on-googles-smart-contact-lenses/ as well as why Google doesn’t get social.

  • Jim Kelly

    Echo Therapeutics has a much more practical
    glucose monitor. It is a transdermal sensor that simply attaches to your skin and it doesn’t use a needle like the Dexcom or Medtronic systems. You don’t have to put anything in your eye, either. Echo is getting their glucose sensor approved in Europe in April, and doing their final FDA trial for approval in the U.S. later this year.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Not everyone is vain enough to wear contact lenses.