Google unveils ‘smart contact lens’ to fight against diabetes

Hand holding - zoomed in

A recent report published by the International Diabetes Federation states that we’re fighting a losing battle against diabetes. The report predicted that in 2035, over 592 million people in the world – one in ten of the world’s population – will be inflicted with diabetes, and the notion that it’s a “disease of the wealthy” just makes the fight against it harder.

The report stated that by 2035, many of those with diabetes will come from the low and middle income countries, proving that this is no longer a “disease of the wealthy.”

Because of this alarming report, researchers are looking for ways to make diabetes a more manageable condition, but one of the main reasons why so many people are suffering is  the frequency with which one needs to take a blood sample to determine their blood glucose level. Though some diabetics have glucose monitors with sensors embedded in the skin, they are still required to prick their fingers, draw a small amount of blood, and test that to get a more accurate glucose reading. This practice is something diabetics are not too fond of – after all, who would want to frequently prick their fingers?

For years, researchers have been looking for ways to get a more accurate blood sugar reading in a less painful fashion, so it’s good to see that Google may have hit upon the answer with its newly announced ‘smart contact lens’ project.

Google X, Google’s mysterious lab, has embedded a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor between two layers of soft contact lens material, in the hopes of unlocking the mystery of tear glucose and how to accurately measure it.

“We’re 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. It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype. We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease,” Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, co-founders of the Google smart contact lens, wrote in a blog post.

Google is currently in discussions with the FDA, so we can’t expect the device to be ready any time soon as there are still many things that need to be ironed out before it can be worn by diabetics.  Google is also looking for partners to help them bring this product to market, as well as app developers who can help make the data readily available for patients and doctors.