Google company had announced a project in 2014 to make a smart contact lens i.e a wearable device. The aim of this project was not to notify you with emails or chats directly to your minds or in your skull at least not yet but the project had aimed to tackle one of the biggest health problems, the world is facing – diabetes.
Diabetic patients measure their glucose by poking the needle on their finger to extract blood and then the sugar level is measured. This process is hectic and painful if it has to be done more than twice a day.
So pharmaceutical lead Novartis Alcon paired with Google to build this revolutionary device that promised to help diabetic patients by consistently monitor their sugar level without poking themselves with a needle on a regular interval. The project also aimed to assist those with an eye problem.
The design of this smart lens will be look alike a regular contact lens but it will come up with a sensor that can track the sugar level through TEARS.
Yes, you heard it right through a drop of tear the sugar level was aimed to be measured.
The eyes are Gods exquisite creation. From the moment in the morning you get up till u lie down, the eyes are remarkably adaptable. Though the eyes are exposed to dust, rubbing, air pollution, poking they still keep working.
So what’s the secret of eyes?
Yes, it’s the tears, and the eyes produce them all the time. In fact every year the basic capacity of eyes to produce tears is 15 to 30 gallons. The lacrimal glands above each eye are responsible for the production of tears. We know that tears express feelings, a mean of communicating our feelings but besides that, it helps you to see clearly and maintain the health of your eyes.
Basically, there is more than one type of tear, but scientist targeted basal tears for their research.
So what is a basal tear?
These are in your eyes all the time to lubricate, nourish and protect your cornea. It acts as a constant shield to the eye from the rest world keeping dirt and debris away.
The research team from Purdue University came up with an innovative way to monitor glucose level. It’s not just from Purdue University but much other standard company both in technology healthcare have attempted to make smart contact lenses for diabetic patients, sparing them from pricking their fingers.
So how it was designed?
The smart lens here contains a tiny ultra thin microchip that is embedded on one side of its conclave surface and besides there is a tiny pinhole in the lens that lets tears in over glucose monitor to get regular readings, in this way the values are recorded every second.
It consists an antenna, a capacitor, and controller which is equally tiny, and measures the glucose and lactate levels of glucose with ph values from users tears, and then send it to a paired device like smartphone or computer via installed software. Further, the data is read and analyzed.
To draw power and to communicate, wireless technology known as RFID (radio frequency identification) is used.
To know more about RFID you can refer to my article
The researches also planned to add LED lights which would help patients in warning when their glucose level drops below the certain threshold value. But, the idea was discarded because of an arsenic composite of lead which could prove fatal.
The lens has experimented on rabbits and it worked in labs but real-world readings are harder due to various interactions of molecules in the eye.
When everything was working fine Novartis announced recently that they are backing off from their announced 2016 goal in testing the lens on a human.
Let us know the reasons for backing off
In an investigation last year it was revealed that contact lens has been dismissed by many types of research and even the experts inside Novartis and Google announced it as “technically infeasible”.
From a STAT report, it is said tears could not prove as reliable as blood in measuring glucose level.
From the last ten years, many efforts are made to measure blood sugar from saliva, sweat, and tears but all in vain. Unlike blood, tears are in direct contact with the world so obviously, external factors such as temperature, environment, and humidity will affect the readings.
So when the company backed off, many competitors are working on smart lenses but for entertainment purpose but does not assist in any medical functions.
So in this market of competition, a smart lens for glucose reading will always be unique and innovative.
Since the thought has already provoked, re-efforts will always be done in this field. It is possible that it might not be immediately available in our local store but in near future, we can hope to get such smart lens which will be a boon to millions of people suffering from diabetes.
And if science makes it possible the diabetic patients will be relieved from pricking their fingers regularly and lens besides, checking for glucose levels it should also be potential to deal with vision disabilities.
The next question that will pop in your mind will be how Google will handle this medical data of users?
What about its security concerns?
This question has been thought by Google officials too, and they have assured that data would not be added to the company’s data bank which is gathered from other services.
And measures will be taken that data transferred from the lens is not manipulated as it will lead to dangerous consequences if the wrong amount of insulin is taken.
If everything works fine then this product will survive the clinical trials and will be in reach of users but as for now, the project is halted.
We hope to see this kind of product in the future. Let me know what is your concern with this type of technology do comment below and continue the conversation.