Researchers at the University of Akron, Ohio, have developed a pioneering new method of monitoring blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
They have developed a contact lens that detects the levels of glucose in a person’s tears. Every time the contact lens wearer blinks, the lens assesses the levels of glucose in the tears. If the body is not metabolising sugar correctly, the levels of glucose will build up in the body and the lens will detect this in the tears. When it detects a build up in glucose levels it changes colour.
Your Own Personal Portable Chemistry Kit
Speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper, Dr Jun Hu, who led the study said: “It works just like pH paper in your high school chemistry lab. The sugar molecule literally acts like the proton in a pH test, displacing a colour dye embedded in the lens, and the lens changes colour.”
New Sugar Detecting ‘Probe’ Developed
Normally, you can’t see sugar molecules when they are dissolved in water, so how can you spot them when they are dissolved in tears? Simple, if you are Dr Jun, you create a ‘probe’ that is a molecule which binds to the sugars. He then bound this molecule with a dye and inserted it into the fabric of the lens. When glucose levels in the tears rise, the sugar binds to the molecule and in doing so the dye is released – changing the colour of the lens.
There Will Soon Be an App for That!
As ingenious as these contact lenses are, especially if you are a diabetic who hates having to do daily skin prick tests, there is one small drawback; most people can’t always see their own eyes and therefore, won’t know if their contact lenses have changed colour. Unless, that is, someone told them or they frequently look in a mirror.
This is why the researchers are now at work on building an app to enable users to check their blood sugar levels via the camera on their smart phone.
He added, “The convenience of contact lenses could boost patient compliance to blood sugar testing, as it will reduce discomfort, inconvenience, and even cost.
In addition, blood sugar 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.”
The team are hoping that these colour changing sugar monitoring lenses will be available to the general public within three years.