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Contact lens could someday monitor blood sugar

February 18, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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The company that invented Web-surfing eyeglasses has now taken computer miniaturization to a new level. Google Inc., based in Mountain View, Calif., has developed in its Google X lab a contact lens that can measure glucose levels in the tears of a diabetic.

The lens, which is made of standard contact lens material, contains tens of thousands of transistors and a circular, hair-thin antenna that sends the data directly to a mobile device. And while the company says this contact lens may not be available to consumers for at least five years, it could eventually eliminate the need for finger pricks necessary to check glucose levels in the blood.

In a blog post, the two co-founders of the project, Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, explained why they chose a contact lens. "Over the years, many scientists have investigated various body fluids—such as tears—in the hopes of finding an easier way for people to track their glucose levels. But as you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study. At Google [X], we wondered if miniaturized electronics—think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair—might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy."

They also envision amore refined monitoring device. "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."