Yes, you read it correctly — an advanced technology contact lens that alerts diabetics if their blood glucose levels are too high or too low in real time via tiny LED flashing lights. Brilliant!
In January, Google unveiled the testing of its “smart contact” that could revolutionize how diabetics monitor their blood glucose levels. Miniaturized electronics, as small as little flecks of glitter, are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material to create a “smart lens” that can monitor blood glucose levels on a per second basis.
In the early stages of product development, co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz took to social media to explain their future plan to get this technology out to the masses as well as the need for such a device: “We’re in discussions with the FDA, but there’s still a lot more work to do to turn this technology into a system that people can use. We’re not going to do this alone: we plan to look for partners who are experts in bringing products like this to market. These partners will use our technology for a smart contact lens and develop apps that would make the measurements available to the wearer and their doctor. We’ve always said that we’d seek out projects that seem a bit speculative or strange, and at a time when the International Diabetes Federation (PDF) is declaring that the world is ‘losing the battle’ against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot.”
It becomes increasingly important for diabetics to control blood sugar since we know that the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases over time. An adult who has had diabetes for 15 years or longer stands an 80% chance of experiencing damage to retinal blood vessels. Keeping blood sugar in check through this non-invasive monitoring system can make it easier to protect and/or maintain a patient’s current vision.
On July 15th Novartis announced that its eye care division, Alcon, will license Google’s “smart lens” technology: “We are looking forward to working with Google to bring together their advanced technology and our extensive knowledge of biology to meet unmet medical needs,” said Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez. “This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye.” We look forward to updates in the coming months as the “smart lens” prototype is refined by these two powerhouses.