In Brief

Google contact lens: is this the future for diabetes sufferers?

Prototype for smart contact lens could lead to a new way for diabetics to manage their disease

GOOGLE has revealed a new "smart contact lens" designed to help diabetics by monitoring glucose levels in tears.

The technology is being developed by Google[x], the clandestine laboratory in Mountain View California, known for futuristic projects such as the self-driving car and Google Glass.

Now the team has created special miniaturised electronics capable of taking glucose readings from tears. The sensors, sandwiched between two layers of a soft contact lens, are said to be so small that they "look like bits of glitter".

The lens could provide an alternative for diabetics who currently rely on regular finger-prick blood tests or glucose monitors embedded under their skin to ensure their glucose levels are safe. Google has done multiple clinical research studies, testing prototypes that can currently generate one reading per second.

Researchers hope that the smart contact lenses can warn users if their glucose levels are too high or too low. Sudden spikes or drops can be dangerous for diabetics and are not uncommon, requiring around-the-clock monitoring.

"Uncontrolled blood sugar puts people at risk for a range of dangerous complications, some short-term and others longer term, including damage to the eyes, kidneys and heart," said Google in a blog post announcing the new technology.

The company is looking at putting tiny LED lights into the lens, which could light up when glucose levels cross certain thresholds. "We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease," said Google, which estimates that one in every 19 people in the world is affected by diabetes.

However, the company says it will take at least five years for the product to reach consumers. It is currently holding discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration and is looking for potential partners to bring the product to market.

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