Google unveils a prototype smart contact lens that can help people with diabetes monitor their glucose levels

Google smart contact lens

Image: Google.

Google has announced plans to develop a smart contact lens which will help people with diabetes monitor their blood glucose levels. The lens, which uses tiny sensors to monitor glucose levels in a person’s tears, will help people to keep track of glucose levels without the need for regular blood tests during the day.

Diabetes affects one in 19 people worldwide and the World Health Organisation expects the incidence of the condition to grow in the coming years.

Glucose monitoring is crucial to the effective management of diabetes, as blood glucose can fluctuate due to variables such as food intake and physical activity. Sudden spikes or drops in blood glucose are dangerous, hence the need for monitoring. Most people with diabetes monitor their blood glucose levels using a pin-prick test which allows them to measure blood glucose directly.

According to Google’s blog glucose levels in tears offer an alternative means to monitoring blood glucose; however tears are difficult to collect and study.

“We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material,” the company said on its blog. “We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second.

“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.

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

The product Google hopes to develop would also have the capability to share data on glucose levels with the wearer’s doctor.

The company says it is in discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration and is also seeking partners to develop the product and bring it to market.