In a recent collaboration, Google and University of Washington researchers have teamed up to develop a new way of measuring a person’s blood glucose levels using contact lenses. The idea is that these contact lenses would be able to measure glucose levels found in tears and send the reading to the person’s mobile phone. If their endeavor is successful, then it may be possible that diabetics may stop drawing blood to measure their sugar levels.
Worldwide, diabetes affects about 400 million people. Untreated, the disease can lead to complications such as blindness, nerve damage, cardiovascular problems, and in the most severe of cases, amputations. For people with diabetes, it is of the utmost importance to monitor their sugar levels, in some cases this may mean taking a measurement more than once a day.
Type 1 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes found in children. This disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and ultimately destroys its own insulin-producing beta cells. In doing so, the body eliminates itself of a vital hormone, and in turn causes the body to experience dramatic swings in blood glucose levels and energy.
Since Type 1 diabetes affects mainly children, disease management must begin early and for many parents it is difficult to get children to do anything that is uncomfortable. Another type of treatment is an insulin pump that is connected to the body via a catheter, but it is prone to contamination which leads to infections.
The glucose-sensing contact lens will function without containing any power supply. Rather, it will have an antenna that will pick up radio waves from a mobile phone which will receive the reading. These radio waves will provide enough power to measure the glucose. These contact lenses combine advances in biochemistry, electronics, and the sciences because they employ enzymes and electrodes.
If successful, there is no doubt that such a device would be revolutionary. And while scientists have long known that tears contain glucose, it still remains to be seen the level of accuracy these contact lenses would produce utilizing only tears. The contact lenses would probably have to be perfected to properly reflect accurate blood glucose levels. Either ways, this new development is a positive step in finding alternate ways in treating and controlling diabetes.