Researchers in South Korea developed a sugar-sensing contact lens that they predict would be available in 5 years for diabetes patients. What makes this device different from other smart contact lenses?

Researchers have developed a soft and flexible contact lens that will allow patients suffering from diabetes to monitor their blood sugar levels with just a blink of their eye.

Diabetes

Millions of Americans have some form of diabetes as a result of too much sugar in the blood. People with diabetes need to monitor what they eat or inject themselves with insulin to prevent their blood sugar from spiking or dropping to dangerous levels. Key to this is accurate blood sugar readings.

Now, a group of researchers developed a contact lens that would make it easier for people with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar.

The lens detects glucose levels of a patient in tears using a built-in wireless sensor. The device is designed to be placed only on one eye.

Soft Lens

One of the significant drawbacks of using smart contact lenses is the wearability of these devices.

Jihun Park, from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea, who developed the contact lens for diabetics, said that what makes their lens different from many smart lenses is it does not use brittle components that can block the user’s field of vision and potentially damage the eye.

“The key difference is the soft lens with stretchable electronics and displays,” Park said. “This soft contact lens is stretchable and can be turned over.”

How It Works

The lens uses a unique sensor with electrodes that are made of highly stretchable and transparent materials. An embedded wireless antenna attached to the contact sensor allows the users to transmit their health data so they can monitor their health in real time.

The wireless display comes with a LED pixel, which will turn off once the sensor detects that the glucose levels in the tear fluid are above the threshold,

“We report an unconventional approach for the fabrication of a soft, smart contact lens in which glucose sensors, wireless power transfer circuits, and display pixels to visualize sensing signals in real time are fully integrated using transparent and stretchable nanostructures,” the researchers wrote in their study.

“This soft, smart contact lens can be transparent, providing a clear view by matching the refractive indices of its locally patterned areas.”

The device has so far been tested only on live rabbits, with the animals showing no signs of discomfort, but Park and colleagues predicted that the sugar-sensing contact lens would become available commercially for use by human diabetic patients in less than five years.

The researchers hope that their device can also be used to detect pre-diabetes and other health conditions.