Researchers Developing Contact Lens to Help People With Diabetes

Researchers hope the same tech could someday be used to detect other health issues
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2017 7:54 PM CDT

(Newser) – People with diabetes can monitor their blood glucose levels continuously via electrodes implanted under their skin, but that method can hurt and can even lead to infections. Researchers think they have a more elegant solution: a biosensing contact lens that detects blood sugar levels. The team, led by Oregon State professor Gregory Herman, has developed an ultra-sensitive biosensor that can detect the much lower glucose concentrations found in tears, Gizmodo reports. Combining it with an actual lens still needs to happen, and then the whole device can be tested, hopefully starting on animals in about a year. What's more, Herman believes the technology could someday be used to detect a number of other health conditions.

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As Herman explains, there's a lot of other information that can be monitored via tears: "lactate (sepsis, liver disease), dopamine (glaucoma), urea (renal function), and proteins (cancers)," he says. He hopes to someday use the same technology to detect those other chemicals. For now, the team is focusing on helping people with diabetes. Herman believes the finished product will be invisible—and affordable. "We are using a technology that is very similar to what is used for cell phones," he explains, so that part should be inexpensive, but there are other costs related to development that need to be brought down. The finished product would transmit blood glucose information to a smartphone or other Bluetooth- or WiFi-enabled device, Phys.org reports. (There could be a link between a gluten-free diet and diabetes.)

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