Color-changing contact lenses to help diabetics (w/ Video)

May 23, 2012, University of Akron

For the millions of Americans with diabetes, the inconvenient and often painful method of testing blood sugar levels is a way of life. But research and innovative product design by scientists at The University of Akron may eliminate the need for needle pricks, blood draws, or other invasive devices.

Researchers have developed a that senses glucose which is the blood sugar in tears, the natural fluid that bathes the eye. If sugar is not being metabolized properly and glucose concentration builds up in the body, the contact will detect a problem and change color.

How a smartphone can read blood sugar — no needles necessary

“It works just like pH paper in your high school chemistry lab,” explains Dr. Jun Hu, associate professor of chemistry at The University of Akron. “The pH paper changes color depending on the acidity or the proton concentration of the liquid applied. That is similar to what happens in our specially designed contact lens, the sugar molecule literally acting like the proton in a pH test, displacing a color dye embedded in the lens, and the lens changes color. ”

User's vision unaffected by changes in lens color

The person wearing the lens won’t notice the color change unless he or she looks in the mirror. So scientists are designing a smart phone application (“app”) that literally takes a picture of the eye and calculates the sugar concentration in the lens. “All you need is a smart phone with a camera,” says Dr. Hu, an organic chemistry researcher who has been with UA since 1999. “This device could be used to detect subtle changes in for tight management of . It can also be used to identify patients with pre-diabetic conditions, allowing early diagnosis that is crucial for preventing diabetes from advancing. Glucose concentrations in tears can be used to intermittently or continuously monitor diabetic patients just as effectively as blood sugar levels measured directly from blood from a pricked finger.”

One lens, not both, reveals sugar level

The convenience of contact lenses could boost patient compliance to blood sugar testing, as it will reduce discomfort, inconvenience, and even cost. In addition, also changes rapidly throughout a normal, active day, so a device that can monitor glucose many times in a day will provide diabetic patients with a very powerful tool in combating such a damaging condition.

Explore further: Team identifies key protein causing excess liver production of glucose in diabetes

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5 comments

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wiyosaya
5 / 5 (2) May 23, 2012
"The convenience of contact lenses could boost patient compliance to blood sugar testing, as it will reduce discomfort, inconvenience, and even cost."

Personally, I don't call wearing contact lenses convenient.
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (1) May 23, 2012
If you're wearing contact lenses anyway making them do double duty would be most convenient, and people who have diabetes would likely tell you that putting on a pair of contact lenses once a day is much more convenient than the several pin-sticks and tests they have to do (some more than others depending on severity of their condition, diet, etc.), but, of course, demand for a new product is the key signifier of success.
Argiod
not rated yet May 23, 2012
This is great for people who wear glasses and are willing to switch to contacts. But for people like me, who have allergies and cannot wear contacts, it is useless.
Teele
not rated yet May 26, 2012
I'm very interested in these lenses. Where can I buy these? Even if the apps is not ready yet I already would like to try these lenses!
gwrede
not rated yet May 27, 2012
I'd prefer a gadget that continuously monitors the color of something, say an earlobe, and then alerts.

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