Google Tests Connected Contact Lenses For Monitoring Diabetes

Google’s experimental research facility is testing contact lenses with miniature sensors that could keep track of diabetes patients’ blood sugar levels

Google is experimenting with special contact lenses equipped with miniaturised sensors that can analyse the tears in the eyes of diabetes patients to determine when their blood sugar levels need to be adjusted.

The project, which could ultimately make the management of diabetes easier for millions of patients around the world, was unveiled Jan 17 in a post by project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz on the Google Official Blog. Otis and Parviz work with the company’s Google[x] research branch.

Constant montoring

Managing diabetes for patients can mean wearing glucose monitors and constantly pricking their skin and testing their blood for sugar levels. To change that, alternative methods are always being evaluated and tested.

google-contact-lens diabetes glucoseThe experimental lenses, which look like typical curved, round lenses, also feature copper-colored “grid” lines that are reminiscent of the rear window heater lines on a modern automobile. The sensors embedded in the grid lines measure glucose levels and analyse the wearer’s tears using a tiny wireless chip and a miniaturised glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material, according to the post.

So far, the team is testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second. “We’re also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, so we’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds,” they wrote.

The study is still in its early phases but multiple clinical research studies have already been completed that are helping refine the lens prototypes, wrote Otis and Parviz. “We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.”

They said they are in discussions about their experiments with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “but there’s still a lot more work to do to turn this technology into a system that people can use.”

Business partners

The project leaders are now seeking business partners to help them invest and successfully bring the experiments to the marketplace in the future, Otis and Parviz wrote. “These partners will use our technology for a smart contact lens and develop apps that would make the measurements available to the wearer and their doctor,” the post stated.

In September 2013, Google launched a new health care company, called Calico, with a goal of finding ways to improve the health and extend the lives of human beings. The startup is focusing on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of ageing and associated diseases, according to Google.

Calico wasn’t the first health care-related initiative undertaken by Google. Back in 2008, Google launched its Google Health initiative, which aimed to help patients access their personal health records no matter where they were, from any computing device, through a secure portal hosted by Google and its partners, according to earlier eWEEK reports. Google Health shut down in January 2013.

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Originally published on eWeek.