So many of my relatives have diabetes that a family get-together can resemble a Red Cross blood drive with all of the finger-pricking required to monitor their glucose levels. Regardless of type, diabetes affects a person’s ability to produce or use insulin, which can cause dangerous swings in glucose levels and lead to serious health problems or even death.
Chris Geddes, associate director of the Institute of Fluorescence at the University of Maryland, has developed an amazing way to take the sting out of monitoring blood sugar–contact lenses that change color along with changes in your blood sugar. No, I’m not making this up.
The contacts have a very small sensor spot on the surface that detects the amount of glucose present in tears. If the sensor is placed inside the visual field, the wearer can detect the color change. When placed outside the visual field, he or she can only see the change by looking in a mirror.
“Developing a monitoring system through contact lenses makes sense because most diabetics have some form of glaucoma and wear contacts or glasses for vision correction,” explains Geddes.
Sensing a change in glucose levels through tears lags about 30 minutes behind a change in the blood, but Geddes says the delay is not a problem. “Because the national average for finger-pricking glucose monitoring is four times a day, most diabetics have gaps of hours in between tests,” he explains. “A contact lens approach would still be a more timely and convenient method because it allows continual monitoring.”
This new, patented technology, which is still under development, would be particularly advantageous to healthcare workers for the elderly or the parents of diabetic children because it allows the caretaker to monitor the blood sugar of the patient or child with a glance.
Will a hefty price tag put this revolutionary lens out of reach for many diabetics? Not at all, says Geddes. He estimates the cost will be in line with other testing methods since the florescent molecule sensor will be imprinted on off-the-shelf contacts via widely-available technology used in designer and novelty lenses.
His next challenge is finding a commercial backer that can bring this non-invasive testing method to the market. I know a lot of people who are rooting for him to succeed.