A team of researchers in South Korea has developed a soft electronic contact lens capable of measuring glucose and intraocular pressure, a development that may help diabetes and glaucoma patients monitor their conditions. There have been previous attempts by ambitious companies and universities to do so in the past, but the results were not very practical. Specifically, the lenses were constructed of fairly rigid materials that made them uncomfortable, while opaque metal wires obscured vision.
The Korean team managed to pull off their feat using flexible and see-through materials, most notably sheets of graphene and metal nanowires. The device is powered using a nearby antenna, which in practice would probably be placed near the eye each time a measurement is made, and readings are immediately transferred back for real-time results.
While a special sensor measures glucose, the change in the shape of the lens while being worn helps to estimate the intraocular pressure. This is done thanks to a layer of a dielectric material, the thinning of which changes its electric properties that can be detected. The glucose sensor and intraocular pressure detection don’t affect each other substantially, and therefore can be performed at the same time while maintaining accuracy.
So far the technology has been tried in lab rabbits, which did not seem to display signs of discomfort that can usually be spotted by direct observation of the animals. Hopefully the same technology will soon be tested by humans in preparation for potential commercial availability.
Study in Science Advances: Soft, smart contact lenses with integrations of wireless circuits, glucose sensors, and displays…