by Janie Chen
Google has created contact lenses that double as glucose monitors. If ever sold in the market, these contacts have the potential to revolutionize the diabetes industry. Diabetics will no longer have to prick themselves to monitor their blood glucose level; these contacts will do it for them automatically.
The contact lens is composed of tiny processing chips and glucose sensors. The antenna that is used to send glucose levels to external devices is thinner than a human hair.
Instead of detecting glucose levels from blood samples, the sensor in the contact lenses detects glucose levels from tears. Because the human eye is composed of live cells, it has very similar chemical composition to that of blood cells. This makes it possible for glucose levels to be detected through tears.
Google’s lenses have the potential to radically decrease diabetic emergencies like hypo and hyperglycemic shock, since this system eliminates human error such as forgetting to take insulin. The glucose sensor sends information to an external device that warns the user if levels are abnormal, ensuring that the user is at least reminded to take insulin.
It also eases the daily hassles parents have to endure when dealing with children with juvenile diabetes, also known as Type 1 diabetes. Children who are fussy and more sensitive to pain or have a fear of needles may be more receptive to contacts.
How did Google become involved in this kind of biomedical research? Google X developers, also the creators behind Google Glass, have long been interested in the capacity contact lenses have to be a platform of communication with the body. Not only are they interested in medical applications, but they also are working towards the use of chips embedded in contact lenses as a form of enhancing reality.
In other words, the lenses would serve as a screen essentially attached to the viewer’s retina. For example, one pixel screens projected by the lenses allow the viewer to see play by play directions as they’re walking or driving down a street. The ability to project instructions or images directly onto the eye serves as an alternative screen through which viewers can receive information.
Thus, Google’s nanotechnology has demonstrated the possibilities that can arise from combining different fields of research. The overwhelming increase in obesity rates has led to a directly related surge in diabetes rates, making diabetes a critical field of research.
Google’s contacts are just a small portion of diabetes research that is being conducted today; however, these contacts represent the multitudes of future innovative products which are resulting from interdisciplinary research and which have the ability to dramatically improve quality of life.