S. Korean Researchers Develop Contact Lenses that Diagnose Diabetes

Contact lenses that light up or turn off depending on the wearer’s blood glucose levels — high blood glucose levels can be an indicator of diabetes — have been developed by a joint research Korean team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and Sungkyunkwan University. The wireless smart contact lenses are constructed using the same material incorporated into commercial soft contact lenses. Identical in appearance to a standard market product, the only visible feature that gives away their enhanced capabilities is a micro LED display that stays lit up when blood glucose levels remain normal.

Blood tests are typically used to diagnose diabetes, but the recent discovery that blood glucose levels can be measured by analyzing tears has led to extensive research into developing contact lenses that can perform the same diagnostic function. Both the micro LED display and a high-sensitivity blood glucose sensor attached to the inner surface of the contact lens are powered by wirelessly transmitted electricity. When blood glucose levels fluctuate, the sensor is triggered, and the micro LED display is toggled accordingly.
The research team tested the technology on a rabbit and reported that the furry animal had experienced no signs of discomfort while the contact lens was in place. After artificially increasing the test subject’s blood glucose levels, the contact lens correctly detected the alteration and deactivated the lit micro LED display. The contact lens did not generate any heat while in use, and the blood glucose sensor and micro LED display were left intact even after coming into contact with other substances generated in the rabbit’s eye.

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