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Diabetes Health Center

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Google Crafting Contact Lenses for Diabetes

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Sheena Meredith, MD

Jan. 17, 2014 -- Google is working on contact lenses with special sensors to monitor diabetes blood sugar levels. The lens measures blood sugar levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniature blood-sugar sensor embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material.

“Uncontrolled blood sugar puts people at risk for a range of dangerous complications, some short-term and others longer term, including damage to the eyes, kidneys, and heart,” the project's co-founders, Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, write on Google’s blog. "A friend of ours told us she worries about her mom, who once passed out from low blood sugar and drove her car off the road."

Regular pinprick blood tests are the usual way to track blood sugar levels. Although a person's tears can also show blood sugar levels, the engineers say they've been hard to collect.

The lenses check blood sugar once a second and may feature tiny lights that would come on as an early warning of dangerous blood sugar levels.

Health Technology You Can Wear

Although Google is best known as a search and advertising company, it has already branched out into wearable technology by developing Google Glass, special glasses fitted with cameras and a tiny computer display.

For general health and fitness, some people use wearable gadgets like the Fitbit or Nike's Fuelband to track their activity during the day.

Measuring blood sugar with wearable technology is not a new trend. Special watches that take readings from the skin during the day have been around for many years.

Google's contact lenses aren’t the first to be used for health checks. A Swiss company called Sensimed has developed contact lenses to check eye pressure in people with glaucoma.

Google’s announcement doesn’t give details of medical trials or when the lenses might be available. It says it is working with the FDA and looking for partners to help develop the lenses.

"It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies, which are helping to refine our prototype,” the project team says. “We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease."

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