Google X Announces Glucose Monitoring Contact Lens

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Google X announced a contact lens that acts as a glucose monitor (a regular contact lens is pictured above)

Last week, Google X publicly announced work on a glucose monitoring contact lens. The lens, ringed with tiny sensors, can read glucose levels from the fluids of the eye. Once perfected, technology like this could replace the continuous glucose monitors that are inserted under the skin via catheter.

Just because the technology was announced doesn’t mean it’s anywhere close to being available to purchase and use on a daily basis. Spokespeople at Google X suggest the device could be ready in about five years’ time. Before these lenses can safely go to market, the researchers will need to prove that they are as effective as fingersticks at determining the amount of glucose in the system at any given moment.

When asked if technology like this could be feasibly integrated into people’s lives once it’s perfected, Joslin’s Howard Wolpert, M.D., Investigator in the Section on Clinical, Behavioral and Outcomes Research and Director of the Joslin Institute for Technology Translation, said, “Ultimately yes, but there’s a long road ahead until this technology is likely to be established to be reliable, especially given lag issues.”

By lag issues, Dr. Wolpert means the difference between blood glucose levels and glucose levels in other bodily fluids, an important measure people with diabetes need to know to make decisions about insulin dosage. Under-the-skin sensors used in continuous glucose monitors measure the glucose found in interstitial fluid, or the fluids that surround the cells of your body. The glucose in these fluids typically lag behind the glucose in blood by anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes, which means the CGM could be almost a quarter of an hour behind in sensing blood glucose spikes or drops.

These contact lenses from Google would also have to contend with that kind of lag. In the absence of a fail-proof algorithm that precisely calculated an individual’s personal lag time, using this device could still require multiple fingersticks daily to ensure it was properly calibrated.

“Another limitation relates to the fact that contact lenses shouldn’t be worn while people are asleep and the overnight period is when people with type 1 diabetes are at most risk for hypoglycemia and when a continuous glucose monitor is of most benefit,” said Dr. Wolpert.

Of course, the researchers at Google understand they have a lot of work to do to make this monitor a reality for the 3 million Americans with type 1 diabetes. According to ABC News, “The company said these are ‘early days’ in its research. More would need to be known about the correlation between tear and blood glucose and what the lag time is in detection, as well as how the environment, such as heat and wind, can affect tears.”

3 Responses to Google X Announces Glucose Monitoring Contact Lens

  1. Linda Tillman says:

    As a parent of a child with Type 1 diabetes, I live every day with the hope and prayer that one day I will read on the Internet that a CURE or that the management of diabetes will be significantly relieved as a result of new discoveries like this one. PLEASE help all people living with this dreadful disease …thank you

  2. George P. says:

    What about Diabetes Retinopathy Dr. Wolper?
    Diabetes Retinopathy is the biggest reason, in my opinion, that will kill the google contact lens. Diabetes has an effect on the eye, as it does the rest of the body. Most people with diabetes are familiar with the risk of diabetic retinopathy, complications inside the eye from the disease. It also affects the front surface of the eye, or the cornea. Patients with diabetes may notice dryness more often and more severely than non-diabetic patients.
    In some patients, this dryness is not severe enough to prohibit contact lens wear. But dryness is only the initial concern. People with Diabetes tend to heal more slowly than individuals without diabetes. This is true for the eye as well as other tissues of the body. Contact lenses increase the risk of corneal ulcers and infections, both of which are of more concern to a diabetic patient due to the lengthened healing time. You might be aware that people with diabetes can often become blind as the disease develops and the process of wearing any kind of contact lens may accelerate such possibility. Here is a recent medical study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22537249

  3. Chung Cha says:

    Hello!!Thank you for this wonderful blog that you share with us…God bless you…

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