Google making sugar-sensing contact lens for diabetics

January 17, 2014 - 9:26:41 am

 A handout image released by Google on 16 January, 2014 shows a smart contact lens built to measure the level of glucose in tears using a miniature glucose sensor and wireless chip embedded in the lens said Google located in Mountain View, California, USA. EPA

SAN FRANCISCO: The Google lab known for working on unusual projects like self-driving cars is crafting a contact lens that could help diabetics manage blood sugar levels.

"We're now testing a smart contact lens that's built to measure glucose levels in tears," project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz said Thursday in a blog post.

The lens works "using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material," Otis and Parviz said.

They said prototypes have undergone clinical tests and talks were underway with the US Food and Drug Administration. 

The project was described as being in its early days, and partners were being sought to make the lenses marketplace reality.

"As you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study," the Google X lab team members said.

"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 the way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy."

Prototype lenses being tested at Google X can generate glucose readings about once a second. 

Researchers are looking into integrating tiny lights that would warn when blood sugar levels go above or below threshold levels, according to the blog post.

"We've always said that we'd seek out projects that seem a bit speculative or strange," Otis and Parviz said.

"At a time when the International Diabetes Federation is declaring that the world is 'losing the battle' against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot."

Google cited figures indicating that diabetes affects one in every 19 people on the planet. (AFP)

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