On Thursday, Google unveiled a contact lens it says monitors the glucose levels of the wearer’s tears. It is a potential reprieve for the millions of sufferers of diabetes who must jab a finger to test their blood up to 10 times daily.
The prototype, which the search engine behemoth said would take another five years before it would be available to consumers, is one of many medical devices companies are designing for glucose monitoring for patients with diabetes that are more convenient and not as invasive as the traditional prick of the finger.
The lenses use a glucose sensor that is minuscule along with a wireless transmitter to help the 382 million suffers of diabetes in the world that need to keep a close watch on blood sugar levels and adjust dosage accordingly.
Over the past 18 months, the lenses have been developed in the Google X clandestine lab that also made the driverless car, the Web surfing eyeglasses as well as Project Loon, a group of oversized balloons that are designed to beam Internet signals to places that have none.
However, research on contact lenses started much earlier when scientists from the University of Washington, but not until Thursday when the project was shared with the AP by Google, the work had been kept secret.
The American Diabetes Associations through Dwight Holing its board chairman said it was thankful for the scientists that are searching for solutions to problems that diabetes patients suffer from.
The lenses look as if they are typical contacts when held. However, upon a closer examination, sandwiched inside the lens are two specks that glitter that are loaded with miniaturized transistors that number in the tens of thousands. Ringing the lens is an antenna that is as thin as a human hair.
The device has been called by Google, the smallest glucose wireless sensor ever developed.
Other systems that monitor glucose levels and are non-needle are being developed, including a contact lens that is similar by NovioSense a company based in the Netherlands. There is also a flexible minuscule spring that is tucked beneath the eyelid. A thumb cuff has been tested by OrSense based in Israel and there have been earlier designs for saliva and tattoo sensors.