Health and Fitness Column

Google helps diabetics

By John Taylor | Jan 21, 2014
Photo by: File John Taylor

Google recently announced the development of contact lens that tracks glucose levels in tears, a less invasive monitoring system for millions of diabetics who have to poke their fingers to draw their blood up to 10 times per day.
This contact lens, which Google says will take another five years of development before it is available to consumers, uses a small glucose sensor and a wireless transmitter to help the 382 million diabetics in the world monitor their blood sugar and adjust their insulin doses without needing a blood sample.
The contact lenses were developed in the “Google X Lab,” the same Google division that came up with a driverless car, web-surfing eyeglasses and Project Loon, a network of large balloons designed to provide internet service to unwired locations.
Testing on the contact lenses has already begun at my alma mater, the University of Washington.
The device looks like a typical contact lens, but when given a closer examination, a user will see twinkling glitter-specks containing thousands of miniaturized transistors. The contact lenses are also ringed with a thin antenna to wirelessly transmit information to a glucose reader.
At the press conference where Google unveiled the contact lens, researchers we met with positive reviews and praise rather than skepticism from reporters and technology experts, particularly because Google built the wireless chips in clean rooms, and used advanced engineering to get integrated circuits and a glucose sensor into such a small space.
Google also stated that because this technology is new, researchers had to build in a system to download incoming radio frequency waves from the contact lenses at a rate of one glucose reading per second. Google states that these embedded electronics in the lens don’t obscure vision because they lie outside the eye’s pupil and iris.
However, there are some medical professionals who have questions about the device.
Among those is figuring out how to correlate glucose levels in tears as compared with blood. And does producing tears through crying or allergies alter the lenses ability to accurately read glucose levels? Without addressing these concerns, it is unlikely Google would be granted FDA approval for the technology.
Despite these apprehensions that will be answered through research, it is amazing that we are living in a technological age when diabetics will have less-painful options for checking their blood sugars. When this product hits the market, I can already envision those living with diabetes, but not needing corrective lenses, purchasing a non-prescription version of this device just to avoid the annoying chore of drawing their own blood.
I wonder if these lenses need a special solution to clean them each day. It would stand to reason that with that much technology inside of the device, a typical contact lens cleaner may destroy the product.
I have to call the patent office. I’ve got my next million dollar idea, which I’m sure will be far more popular than my tuna-flavored ice cream concept. I was certain “tuna cream” was going to be the next big thing in retail.