Diabetes is a disease that impacts more than 29 million people around the world. With above normal glucose levels and the body's inability to effectively distribute insulin, many diabetics have to frequently prick their finger to check their blood glucose levels. That painful task could soon be a thing of the past as scientists work on a noninvasive solution that involves just the blink of an eye.
Researchers at Oregon State University are in the midst of developing a sensory contract lenses that can measure blood glucose levels. Using indium gallium zinc oxide, the same technology that gives electronics their vivid displays, the lenses would be able to transmit the health information directly to smartphones.
The transparent film of field effect transistors also contains deposits of glucose oxidase, an enzyme that reacts with glucose. When the reaction happens, the pH changes and alters the electrical field around the transistors. The alternation in the electrical field impacts the conductivity of the transistors, which enables the computer chip to calculate the change in blood glucose throughout the day.
In order to power the transistors, a small capacitor would be needed along with an antenna to communicate data to a smartphone and charge the system using radio waves. However, that poises a major issue for researchers, which is how to keep these sensing contacts private. Wireless RF-based technology found in credit cards has already raised concerns that people could secretly intercept personal information.
With the ability to fit more than 2,000 transparent sensors into a square millimeter, this technology could be used to monitor other biometrics. The sensors can detect uric acid levels, which can signal kidney problems, and has to potential to identifying proteins that are early indications of some cancers.
The team at Oregon State University has already built prototype lenses, but have yet to start testing them. Meanwhile, Google is working with pharmaceutical giant Novartis to develop the GLens. The smart contact lenses uses different technology that measures voltage changed between two electrodes to help patients manage diabetes.
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