Historically, dealing with diabetes has come with all kinds of challenges. Diet management, glucose monitoring, medications … it’s all part of living with the disease. But researchers are developing a new noninvasive tool that could change all of that.
What if a contact lens could continually track your glucose levels and transmit that information to your phone? That’s what’s on the horizon, according to researchers who are promising a new way for people with diabetes to monitor their health and maintain their glucose levels.
Pharmaceutical giant Novartis has teamed up with Google to create the smart lens, which looks like a regular contact lens, but comes with a sensor that can track the user’s blood sugar level painlessly through their tears. The lens does all this through a tiny, ultra-slim microchip embedded in its side and a pair of minuscule wireless antenna that sends the information to your phone or computer. Bonus: since the system uses wireless antennae to read information, the lens doesn’t need to be charged or use a battery.
This could be a revolutionary tool for people with diabetes, and has the potential to transform the world of eye care. It could offer a simpler, more comprehensive way to monitor glucose levels. Plus, it would mean no more painful finger pricks to assess blood sugar levels. It could even save people with diabetes some money, since managing chronic diseases can get expensive.
But don’t get too excited yet – this lens is still in early testing stages, and has yet to be tested on humans. Multiple additional research teams for companies like Samsung, Sony and Apple are in a race to create the first commercially viable contact lens for people with diabetes. The main challenge is shrinking the parts of the lens enough that they won’t impact your vision, but keeping them flexible enough to be comfortable.
The devices are also finally becoming thin enough that they can be transparent in the eye of the user. The current version of the lens being tested on rabbits has components that are 1/100th the thickness of your commercially available soft contact lens.
So what’s stopping the smart lens from going to human trials and becoming commercially viable? There are a couple of things. First, the lens sensor relies on glucose oxidase to bind sugar and measure levels. The problem is that the process produces hydrogen peroxide, which can cause eye damage. Plus, the amount of glucose oxidase in the lens will fade over time, so the lenses will have to be regularly recalibrated to provide accurate readings.
Human trials aren’t on the calendar yet, but they’re closer than ever. Researchers say recent advancements are making the smart lens more viable than ever before.
“We are now a step closer to the implementation of a fictional idea for a smart contact lens in the films, like ‘Minority Report’ and ‘Mission: Impossible,’” says Jihun Park, a materials scientist at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea.
Researchers admit they aren’t ready to begin human trials of the lenses but they say the recent advancements are bringing the human trials closer than ever. Several major manufacturing and tech companies, including Samsung, Sony, and Apple, are looking at the research on the lenses with plans for future production.
Dr. Silverman and the team at OCLI are always looking for ways to use cutting edge technology to provide the most up to date eye care to your family. Whether it’s Contura treatments for LASIK to Kamra inlays, Dr. Silverman is ready to help you face your eye care needs. Contact the team at OCLI today!