Researchers are developing a revolutionary contact lens that could change the lives of millions of people suffering from type 1 diabetes.
Living with the disease can be stressful as doctors recommend diagnosed patients test their blood four to eight times a day.
The lens would use people’s tears to monitor their blood glucose levels, saving them time and potentially improving their health.
“I have a friend who has diabetes, and saw the issues he faces managing his sugar levels,” Gregory Herman, leader of the Oregon State University research team, told The Independent.
Diabetes is a long-lasting health condition that causes the amount of sugar in the blood to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2, both serious and without cure.
The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that controls the level of glucose in the bloodstream. Patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes don’t produce this hormone and need regular insulin treatment to avoid complications.
“My group started getting serious on glucose sensors for the development of an artificial pancreas a few years ago in collaboration with Pacific Diabetes Technologies," said Dr Herman.
“We decided to take a different direction than the company which led us to the transparent sensor that can be integrated into a contact lens."
The technology consists of a transparent biosensor that can go anywhere on the contact lens. This sensor detects changes to pH, or acidity levels, and measures the amount of glucose in tears.
“The lens will let people know when to give themselves injections and for patients wearing insulin pumps the signal can provide information for self-regulation,” he said.
In 2014, Google began testing a prototype of its own smart lens built to measure glucose concentrations in tears, using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturised glucose sensor.
But the project has been delayed, as its giant pharmaceutical partner Novartis announced last year that they were backing off from the trial due to technical difficulties.
It is estimated that there are around 415 million people living with diabetes worldwide and 4.5 million in the UK alone, according to Diabetes UK.
At the moment, the prototype tested in lab can only detect the level of glucose in the blood. The team hopes it could also identify other medical conditions, such as cancer, eye diseases and multiple sclerosis, a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord.
The worst jobs for your health
The worst jobs for your health
1/10 10. Surgical and medical assistants, technologists, and technicians
Overall unhealthiness score: 57.3 What they do: Assist in operations, under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel and perform medical laboratory tests. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to disease and infections: 88 2. Exposure to contaminants: 80 3. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 69
2/10 9. Stationary engineers and boiler operators
Overall unhealthiness score: 57.7 What they do: Operate or maintain stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment to provide utilities for buildings or industrial processes. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 99 2. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 89 3. Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 84
3/10 8. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
Overall unhealthiness score: 58.2 What they do: Operate or control an entire process or system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 97 2. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 80 3. Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 74
4/10 7. Histotechnologists and histologic technicians
Overall unhealthiness score: 59.0 What they do: Prepare histologic slides from tissue sections for microscopic examination and diagnosis by pathologists. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 88 2. Exposure to contaminants: 76 3. Exposure to disease and infections: 75
5/10 6. Immigration and customs inspectors
Overall unhealthiness score: 59.3 What they do: Investigate and inspect people, common carriers, goods, and merchandise, arriving in or departing from the US or between states to detect violations of immigration and customs laws and regulations. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 78 2. Exposure to disease and infections: 63 3. Exposure to radiation: 62
6/10 5. Podiatrists
Overall unhealthiness score: 60.2 What they do: Diagnose and treat diseases and deformities of the human foot. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to disease and infections: 87 2. Exposure to radiation: 69 3. Exposure to contaminants: 67
7/10 4. Veterinarians, veterinary assistants, and laboratory animal caretakers and veterinary technologists and technicians
What they do: Diagnose, treat, or research diseases and injuries of animals and perform medical tests in a laboratory environment for use in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases in animals. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to disease and infections: 81 2. Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 75 3. Exposure to contaminants: 74
8/10 3. Anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, and anesthesiologist assistants
Overall unhealthiness score: 62.3 What they do: Administer anesthetics or sedatives during medical procedures, and help patients in recovering from anesthesia. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to disease and infections: 94 2. Exposure to contaminants: 80 3. Exposure to radiation: 74
9/10 2. Flight attendants
What they do: Provide personal services to ensure the safety, security, and comfort of airline passengers during flight. Greet passengers, verify tickets, explain use of safety equipment, and serve food or beverages. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 88 2. Exposure to disease and infections: 77 3. Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 69
10/10 1. Dentists, dental surgeons, and dental assistants
Overall unhealthiness score: 65.4 What they do: Examine, diagnose, and treat diseases, injuries, and malformations of teeth and gums. May treat diseases of nerve, pulp, and other dental tissues affecting oral hygiene and retention of teeth. May fit dental appliances or provide preventive care. Top three health risks: 1. Exposure to contaminants: 84 2. Exposure to disease and infections: 75 3. Time spent sitting: 67
“Since we can include more sensors we can check for other biomarkers well beyond just glucose. For example, we have shown that the technology works for uric acid as well, which is an indicator for renal disease.
“Our goal is to incorporate hundreds of sensors into a single contact lens,” said Dr Herman.
The findings were published last year in the science journal Nanoscale and Applied Materials & Interfaces and are presented today at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco, California.Reuse content