Google has come up with another wearable eye device, this time a lens made out of soft contact material that might help diabetes patients keep track of their glucose levels.
The company revealed a functional prototype Jan. 16 that doctors are saying has the potential to replace not only the current continuous glucose monitors implanted under the skin, but perhaps one day even the painful finger-pricking blood tests.
The so-called smart lens, a tiny wireless computer chip that contains a glucose sensor and an antenna thinner than a strand of hair, is implanted between soft contact lens material, which is worn on the surface of the eye.
The lens is powered by tapping into radio waves in the air and is designed to send data to a smart phone or other device.
“Glucose levels change frequently with normal activity like exercising or eating or even sweating. Sudden spikes or precipitous drops are dangerous and not uncommon, requiring round-the-clock monitoring,” say Google [x] co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz.
The gold standard for testing the presence of glucose is doing a quick blood test. But traces of glucose can also be found in bodily fluids under the skin and in the eyes.
But because changes in glucose levels can be so abrupt, there may be a lag time in detection in the eyes, according to endocrinologists.
The company said these are “early days” in its research. More would need to be known about the correlation between tear and blood glucose and what the lag time is in detection, as well as how the environment, such as heat and wind, can affect tears.
Dr. Gerald Bernstein, director of the Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, said the idea is “terrific, if it can be done.”
The key is whether the device measures just the tears on the outside of the eye or the aqueous humor, the thin, watery fluid that fills the space between the cornea and the iris.
Aqueous fluid is “a more predictable reflection of the blood sugar,” he said. “And don’t forget, this is bodily fluid and not exactly what is in the blood.”
The concept is not new, according to Bernstein. Several years ago, he consulted with an Albuquerque, N.M., company to measure glucose in the aqueous humor.
Those scientists used a low-level laser that could safely send light through the fluid in the front chamber of the eye to record the blood sugar.
It was used for patients undergoing surgery so doctors could continuously read blood sugar levels.
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