We've seen remarkable contact lenses that allow for virtual reality vision, wash your eyes with medicated tears, or give you vampire or blinged out pupils. These are all very cool, but now one researcher is developing a contact lens that could save lives of diabetics by monitoring blood sugar and changing color accordingly.
Millions of Americans who have diabetes may be able to get rid of their painful blood testing devices in favor of a prototype being developed at the University of Akron. These lenses sense the glucose in your tears that, if not being metabolized correctly, would build up just as it would in your blood. The contact lens would recognize the problem and change color to alert the wearer.
Dr. Jun Hu, an organic chemistry researcher, has been working on the project for the University of Akron since 1999. He notes that since the color in the lens would not be visible to the wearer, currently they'd only know about the change if they looked in the mirror or were alerted by someone.
His current work is focusing on creating a smartphone app that would take a picture of the eye and read the blood sugar level in the lens. Since the goal is that the app would be sensitive to very subtle changes, this would allow the user to detect if there is a problem before it gets serious — and possible pre-diabetic conditions.
The contact lens testing is painless and can be done rapidly and more often through the day. Because of this, it is hoped the combination of lenses and smartphone app will increase compliance in monitoring.
The development of the lenses has come a long way, but are still in the testing phase. Here's hoping they are made available soon and the painful finger prick testing will become a thing of the past!