Internet search engine giant Google has announced that it developing a “smart contact lens” that uses an embedded chip and antenna to monitor blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
The company has tested a prototype that can deliver a reading once every second by analyzing the blood sugar level in tears.
Google says that while it has already discussed the lens technology with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it anticipates that perfecting it will require more work.
If the technology is successfully developed, it could offer a way out of having to test for blood sugar levels using finger pricks. Millions of people with diabetes test daily using finger pricks, an irritating procedure at best, and for many a painful chore.
An estimated 38 million Americans wear contact lenses, which come predominately in soft plastic form. The concept of contact lenses was first proposed by Leonardo da Vinci in 1508, but it wasn’t until 1887 that the first successful contact lens, made of glass, was manufactured.
In the years since, the technology has advanced to the point that many users can wear the same lens 24/7 for weeks at a time, as well as deal with such previously difficult-to-correct conditions as astigmatism.
Because soft lenses are extremely comfortable and easy to put on and remove, the door is open for Google to develop lenses for people who have no vision problems, but would enjoy the convenience of painless blood sugar level readings.
Google’s announcement joins an expanding list of ventures the company is undertaking. Besides its somewhat controversial Google Glasses eyewear, the company is also developing driverless cars, wireless-equipped balloons that allow Internet access in remote regions, and plans to launch a company later this year devoted to studying age-related diseases.
To see Google’s blog description of the lends, go to http://googleblog.blogspot.com/