Industrial Electronics

Contact Lenses Developed to Detect Glucose Levels in Diabetes Patients

22 February 2018

Newly developed contact lenses can help diabetics keep track of their blood sugar and alert them when their blood sugar levels are off. The new contact lenses are made of biosensors that can detect glucose through the eyes. These contacts were developed by UNIST researchers.

The new smart contact lens, capable of monitoring glucose levels in tears. Source: UNISTThe new smart contact lens, capable of monitoring glucose levels in tears. Source: UNIST

The new smart contacts have a built-in pliable, transparent electronics that have the ability to detect changes in glucose through the tears in eyes. The contacts have not been tested on humans, but the researchers hope that they will be able to use these contacts on humans and release them soon. The contacts provide pain-free glucose tracking, a huge development for diabetics.

Monitoring blood sugar levels is very important for diabetics. Currently, the most common approach to monitoring is through pricking a finger and finding the blood sugar levels through blood. This process is cumbersome and most people don’t enjoy pricking their finger multiple times a day.

Researchers have been attempting to develop an alternative to the finger prick method for years. But the technology just hasn’t been developed enough to find a better method. There have even been other smart contact lenses developed, but they have poor wearability.

To combat the uncomfortable wear of smart contacts, the research team created contacts that use electrodes made of highly stretchable and transparent materials. The lens is clear, flexible and has a glucose sensor that sends signals to LEDs. The sensor transmits health information to an embedded wireless antenna in the lens.

Electric power activates the LED pixel and glucose sensor is wirelessly transmitted to the lens through the antenna. When the glucose concentration above the threshold is detected in tear fluids, the LED pixel turns off.

The prototypes of these contacts have been tested on live rabbits through non-invasive in-vivo testing. The rabbit didn’t show any signs of discomfort or strange behavior when wearing the contacts. The LED successfully turned off when tear fluids had higher glucose concentration. Everything about the contacts was successful in this testing.

"These smart contact lenses are made of transparent nanomaterials and therefore do not obstruct the wearer's view," says Jihun Park, the first author of the study. "Besides, because the system uses a wireless antenna to read sensor information, no separate power source, like the battery is required for the smart contact lens sensors."

"The in vivo tests using a live rabbit ... provided the substantial promise of future smart contact lenses for noninvasive healthcare monitoring using human eyes and tears," says the research team.

"Our smart contact lens provides a platform for wireless, continuous, and noninvasive monitoring of physiological conditions, as well as the detection of biomarkers associated with ocular and other diseases," says Jang-Ung Park, professor in materials science and engineering. "It also offers the potential for expanded applicability in other areas, such as smart devices for drug delivery and augmented reality."

The paper on this research was published in Science Advances.

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