Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published January 16, 2014 at 7:03 PM | Page modified January 16, 2014 at 10:02 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (2)
  • Print

Google develops contact lens glucose monitor

The contact lenses use a minuscule glucose sensor and a wireless transmitter to help those among the world’s 382 million diabetics who need insulin keep a close watch on their blood sugar and adjust their dose.


The Associated Press

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
Google killing two birds with one stone. Changing the Nest conversation and creating an... MORE
MS-H...and as the mother of a type one diabetic, my take on this is one of thankfulness... MORE

advertising

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google on Thursday unveiled a contact lens that monitors glucose levels in tears, a potential reprieve for millions of diabetics who have to jab their fingers to draw their blood up to 10 times a day.

The prototype, which Google says will take at least five years to reach consumers, is one of several devices being designed by companies to make glucose monitoring for diabetic patients more convenient and less invasive than the traditional finger pricks.

The lenses use a minuscule glucose sensor and a wireless transmitter to help those among the world’s 382 million diabetics who need insulin keep a close watch on their blood sugar and adjust their dose.

The contact lenses were developed during the past 18 months in the clandestine Google X lab that also came up with a driverless car, Google’s Web-surfing eyeglasses and Project Loon, a network of large balloons designed to beam the Internet to unwired places. But research on the contact lenses began several years earlier at the University of Washington, where scientists worked under National Science Foundation funding. Until Thursday, when Google shared the project, the work had been kept under wraps.

“You can take it to a certain level in an academic setting, but at Google we were given the latitude to invest in this project,” said one of the lead researchers, Brian Otis.

The device looked like a typical contact lens when Otis held one on his index finger. On closer examination, sandwiched in the lens are two twinkling glitter-specks loaded with tens of thousands of miniaturized transistors. It’s ringed with a hair-thin antenna.

“It doesn’t look like much, but it was a crazy amount of work to get everything so very small,” Otis said at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

Other nonneedle glucose-monitoring systems are in the works, including a similar contact lens by Netherlands-based NovioSense, and, Israel-based OrSense has tested a thumb cuff.

Worldwide, the glucose-monitoring-devices market is expected to be more than $16 billion by the end of this year, according to analysts at Renub Research.

Many challenges remain. Among those is figuring out how to correlate glucose levels in tears as compared with blood. And what happens on windy days, while chopping onions or during very sad movies?



News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Where in the world are Seahawks fans?

Where in the world are Seahawks fans?

Put your marker on The Seattle Times interactive map and share your fan story.

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►