Google’s Smart Contact Lenses Tell Diabetics When Their Glucose Levels Are Low

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Finger prick testing could soon be a thing of the past for people with diabetes, thanks to new smart contact lenses being developed by Google that measure glucose levels in your tears. The lenses have tiny chips and LEDs embedded within them, which light up to notify the wearer that their glucose levels have crossed certain thresholds.

“You’ve probably heard that diabetes is a huge and growing problem—affecting one in every 19 people on the planet,” Google says. “But you may not be familiar with the daily struggle that many people with diabetes face as they try to keep their blood sugar levels under control.”

Google explains that diabetes is “like having a part-time job.” The glucose levels in our bodies fluctuate so frequently with normal activity — such as exercising or eating — that sudden spikes and drops are not uncommon. But they can be dangerous, so people with diabetes must monitor these levels around the clock.

Some people wear glucose monitors with special sensors under their skin, but all diabetics still have to perform finger prick tests and draw blood for testing throughout the day. “It’s disruptive, and it’s painful,” Google says, and as a result “people with diabetes check their blood glucose less often than they should.”

So Google is hoping to eliminate the finger prick test with smart contact lenses that can measure glucose levels in tears. The lenses can generate a reading once every second, then provide an early warning to their wearer using a built-in LED when their glucose levels spike or drop below certain thresholds.

“It’s still early days for this technology,” the search giant says, “but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype.”

Google is hoping that the technology can one day lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage the disease.