We now have contact lenses that detect blood sugar levels!

This technology may be able to provide the user and the clinician real-time, wireless glucose levels in tears adequate for measuring fasting glucose levels in diabetic patients. The display would be able to alert the patient in the event of glucose levels in need of treatment. Patients may be able to avoid painful finger-sticks in lieu of a non-invasive soft, smart contact lens.

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Science and technology are surprising us everyday with eye-opening inventions of flying cars and artificial reality. Another groundbreaking creation – that would never have struck the layman – has been made. Imagine keeping control of your mood, health and diet through your eyes, that almost as fictional as one would find in a preteen vampire movie. But, not anymore.

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in the Republic of Korea has developed a contact lens with a tiny LED light that turns on and off to show blood glucose levels. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes how they made their contact lens and how well it worked when tested.

It is an integral Part of every diabetes control to monitor blood sugar. The current standard method of at-home glucose testing is collecting a tiny blood sample and then using a micro-scale device to test. While not unduly painful, it does increases chances of infection. Therefore, most diabetics would likely prefer a means for testing their glucose that is both gentler and easier to carry out.

Because of that, health scientists continue to carry out research looking for a better way. The smart contact lenses are based on the ideology of monitoring the physiological information of the eye and tear fluid, which could provide real-time, noninvasive medical diagnostics. Prior research has shown that human tears can be used to test for glucose levels, leading many to look into ways of obtaining it for testing. In this new effort, the team in Korea has designed and built a contact lens with a tiny LED light that remains lit when glucose levels are normal and turns off when they go too high—they have named it, aptly enough, the “wireless smart contact lens.” The device exploits the body’s automatic and continuous secretion of tears to keep the eyes from drying out.

However, Jihun Park and colleagues point out in previous reports that some hurdles must be overcome prior to the widespread use of smart contact lenses. Such hurdles include: the opaque nature of most electronic materials, integrating circuit chips, metal antennas, and interconnects that may block vision. These could block the user’s vision and potentially damage the eye. Hence, recently, advances have been made to make the smart lenses more usable.

The authors have introduced a new approach for the fabrication of soft, smart contact lenses that can overcome the problems of rigidity and opacity and they present their results in a recent Science Advances article.

Read more: Household treasures: Cinnamon, blood sugar and diabetes

To make the new contact lens, the team used ultrafine printing methods to create rectifying circuits, a supercapacitor and an LED that were small enough to fit on the inside of an ordinary contact lens. The circuits and the supercapacitor were also printed using the same clear material used to make soft contact lenses to prevent obstructing vision. The arrangement also allowed the device to be charged wirelessly, which means it does not need to be removed for charging.

The researchers report that when the contact is in the eye, only the LED is visible to the user, and it does not obstruct vision because it is placed over the iris and not the pupil. They further report that the contact lens itself is identical to commercial soft contact lenses. They say that a test rabbit fitted with the lens showed no signs of discomfort, and the LED turned on and off just as designed.

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