Pioneering contact lenses could help diagnose diabetes

By Editor
17th May 2017

A contact lens designed to help diagnose and monitor diabetes has been adapted to solve previous wearability issues, researchers say.

The eyewear has been fitted with pioneering built-in wireless sensors made from highly stretchable and transparent graphene sheets and metal nanowire.

Previous work looking at contact lenses has already indicated they could be used to monitor diabetes through tears, but people who tried them out complained they were uncomfortable to wear. Obscured vision was another common complaint because the lenses were fitted with opaque electrodes.

Taking into account the wearability issues, the team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea and Kyungpook National University, used different materials to solve the problems.

They now think the newly created lenses may “one day be able to self-monitor blood glucose levels and eye pressure” for diabetes and another common eye complaint, glaucoma.

Professor Jang-Ung Park, from the Materials Science and Engineering department at UNIST, said: “This study can be used to diagnose diseases (diabetes and glaucoma) by implementing two types of transparent electronic sensors in the production of smart contact lens sensors.”

He believes they are now “one step closer to the implementation of a fictional idea for a smart contact lens in the films, like Minority Report and Mission: Impossible”.

Using rabbits to test the eyewear, the researchers said the animal did not show any “abnormal behaviour”.

Writing in the March edition of the Nature Communications journal, they concluded: “We have demonstrated a wearable smart contact lens with highly transparent and stretchable sensors that continuously and wirelessly monitors glucose and intraocular pressure, which are the risk factors associated with diabetes and glaucoma, respectively.

“This multiplexed contact lens sensor indicates substantial promise for next-generation ocular diagnostics, which not only monitors disease-related biomarkers but also evaluates ocular and overall health conditions of our body.”

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