Each day millions of diabetes patients have to undergo painful pin pricks to check their blood glucose levels. While most long-time sufferers say they’ve simply gotten used to the routine, certainly they would appreciate a less invasive way to measure their blood sugar, and Google says they have the answer. Although it’s still in the prototype stage, designers in the super secret Google X lab have developed a contact lens that monitors the glucose level in tears.
At first glance, the device looks like a standard contact lens but upon closer inspection, the lens appears to have “glitter” or “specks” around the rim. These specks are actually miniscule transistors and an antenna located just outside the field of vision. The contact lens is the smallest wireless glucose sensor ever created.
Our resident pharmacist, Dr. Sarah Kahn, said she’s excited to see companies like Google get involved in this realm because they make such great tech products, but she still has questions about using the eye as a measuring tool. “Blood glucose readings are different on certain parts of the body such as when someone does alternative site testing on their forearm, their finger may be slightly different,” she explained. “When someone is experiencing a low blood sugar episode they should always test on their fingers to get the most accurate reading.”
More research and development will be necessary to address initial concerns like how long the contacts can be worn, will the strong aroma and tear-inducing fumes of chopped onions effect the lenses, and what about crying or very windy days? Also, Google will need to impress the FDA and assure them that the device is just as safe as other products on the market before it can be sold to the masses.
For both type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients, testing blood sugar is a critical component to successfully managing their disease. Google’s contact lens presents an exciting alternative to finger-pricking and hopefully the technology will go even further. As Dr. Kahn suggested, “Having the readings sent to your smartphone would be so convenient.”