Google working on glucose-sensing contact lens

February 7, 2014

Google recently announced it is developing a contact lens that monitors glucose levels for diabetics.

Mountain View, CA-Google recently announced it is developing a contact lens that monitors glucose levels for diabetics.

The lens is fitted with a small sensor and wireless transmitter that would measure glucose levels in seconds and signal a pump to administer insulin when those levels are too high. The lens would provide a painless alternative to the traditional glucose monitors that require the user to prick their finger to draw blood.

The project was originally began at the University of Washington several years ago, but was moved to the Google X lab-the same lab that developed Google Glass and a driverless car-a year and a half ago. The lens is at least 5 years away from commercial development.

“The concept is intriguing and the hardware exists, although in prototype form,” says Joseph P. Shovlin, OD, FAAO, Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member. “Wireless technology using a contact lens is not entirely new. Triggerfish (Sensimed) can measure intraocular pressure (IOP) indirectly by monitoring ocular dimensional changes. Imagine the impact on the almost 26 million diabetics (and the numbers are growing) in the U.S. who have to prick their finger multiple times daily. The epidemic continues to grow at staggering rates for adult-onset diabetes in this country and abroad. The company raises concern for security, and any app will definitely have to address this growing problem. But, in spite of the work that needs to be done, I suspect the product will eventually be launched and should serve this population well and perhaps other groups with additional applications for a wide array of diseases."

Diabetes accounts for about 11% of annual healthcare costs in the United States, according to the company, with direct medical costs of $176 billion and another $89 billion in reduced productivity. With a growing population of over 382 million diabetics worldwide, the glucose monitoring device market is expected to grow to $16 billion a year by 2017.