The Dawn of Smart Contacts

Living with diabetes is difficult. 29.1 million Americans have to deal with the reality of the disease every day. One of the most difficult aspects of the disease is the constant need to monitor blood sugar levels. Currently, the most effective, and common, way of monitoring one’s blood sugar is by drawing blood from a finger, and placing the sample into a monitor. Recently, however, scientists and researchers have been developing newer and less intrusive methods of blood sugar monitoring. From fully automated pancreases to implantable glucose monitoring chips, the race to find a better way to monitor glucose levels is heating up. And the most unobtrusive method may be coming soon: smart contact lenses.


According to Gizmodo, researchers from Oregon State University have created a transparent biosensor that can be implanted into contact lenses which can detect sudden changes in blood sugar levels, among other health issues. According to the Gizmodo article, the lead scientist behind the project, Gregory Herman, was looking for a far safer and more practical method of monitoring blood glucose levels, as the current means can be painful and inconvenient.


The project came to be after Herman and his colleagues developed a semiconductor made out of gallium zinc oxide; this would be the foundation of the smart contact lenses. In short, the biosensor is engineered in such a way that when it comes in contact with glucose, it oxidizes blood sugar, which allows for noticeable changes in the body. While the technology is still new, Herman hopes that it can be developed to measure any number of diseases.


“There is a fair amount of information that can be monitored in a teardrop,” Herman stated in an interview with Gizmodo. “Of course, there is glucose, but also lactate, dopamine, urea, and proteins. Our goal is to expand from a single sensor to multiple sensors.”
If Herman and his group can hone the technology and mass produce it, they could potentially change the way that diabetics live their lives. Hopefully, the lenses will not only take off, but become a standard in blood sugar monitoring and even help detect other diseases.