First there was Google, then Google Glass, and soon, there will be Google Smart Lenses.
Armed with tiny chips and an antenna, Google’s “smart lens” (above) could be a new way for diabetics to monitor their glucose levels and possibly eliminating the painful (and constant) need to prick their fingers in order to test their blood sugar.
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. 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.
In the announcement on their official blog, the smart lens project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz discuss how diabetes affects 1 in 19 people, putting them at risk for kidney, eye, and heart damage and how those they’ve spoken with say that “managing their diabetes is like having a part-time job” and because glucose levels change throughout the day depending on activity, finger pricks/blood testing has to be done throughout the day…and because of the pain. Because they often have to stop what they’re doing in order to test it, many diabetics “tend to check their levels less often.”
This is where the smart lens comes into play:
Over the years, many scientists have investigated various body fluids—such as tears—in the hopes of finding an easier way for people to track their glucose levels. But as you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study. At Google, we wondered if miniaturized electronics—think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair—might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy.
Don’t expect this lens to hit the market anytime soon; a LOT more testing needs to be done.
We’re in discussions with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), but there’s still a lot more work to do to turn this technology into a system that people can use. We’re not going to do this alone: we plan to look for partners who are experts in bringing products like this to market. These partners will use our technology for a smart contact lens and develop apps that would make the measurements available to the wearer and their doctor.
Here’s hoping. Maybe this is part of Google’s venture to help people live forever. You go, Google!
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