A pioneering contact lens which could monitor glucose levels has been developed to solve previous wearability issues.
These lenses have been fitted with a new type of sensor which has been made from transparent and flexible materials. Highly stretchable electrodes, made from transparent graphene and ultra-thin nanowires, are used in the design.
Sensors in the lens are able to monitor glucose levels in tears which rise and fall in proportion to blood glucose levels. Whereas previous research has shown contact lens technology to be suitable for monitoring diabetes, common complaints stated they were not comfortable to wear. A further issue was that the previous thicker and opaque electrodes were obstructing vision.
The developers took these issues into account, which is why the new lenses have been made from more flexible and see-through materials.
Researchers, from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea and Kyungpook National University, say the newly-created eyewear may “one day be able to self-monitor blood glucose levels and eye pressure.”
This would mean that the lenses could be used to monitor sugar levels in diabetes and monitor eye pressure which is raised in an eye complication, glaucoma, that can develop in some people with diabetes.
Professor Jang-Ung Park, from the Materials Science and Engineering department at UNIST, said they are now “one step closer to the implementation of a fictional idea for a smart contact lens in the films, like Minority Report and Mission: Impossible.”
The researchers have so far tested the lenses on rabbits and observed no abnormal behaviour.
The improved comfort could be useful for other research teams that are developing glucose monitoring contact lenses. These include researchers from the University of Waterloo, Oregon State University and Google.
The authors wrote: “We have demonstrated a wearable smart contact lens with highly transparent and stretchable sensors that continuously and wirelessly monitor glucose and intraocular pressure, which are the risk factors associated with diabetes and glaucoma, respectively.”
The findings of the study were published in the March edition of the Nature Communications journal.

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