Microsoft develops glucose-monitoring contact lenses

Microsoft and the University of Washington are developing contact lenses that will provide real-time updates on glucose and insulin levels to diabetes sufferers.

Researchers at Microsoft are working in collaboration with the University of Washington to develop an electronic contact lens that can monitor glucose levels in the blood.

Dubbed 'Functional Contact Lenses', they would potentially replace blood tests and provide instant information on changes in glucose and insulin levels -- a tantalizing prospect for type 1 diabetes sufferers.

Gaining a real-time update of their chemical fluctuations, diabetes patients would then be able to monitor their situation, and react instantly to imbalances.

The contact lenses are designed to take measurements through tears and eye fluid, which would be stored digitally and allow access to the records by the user's doctor. The lenses reportedly are expected to be worn on a daily basis.

An enzyme interacts with eye fluid, and as the reaction takes place specific measurements are made via bio-compatible electrodes on the surface of the lens. The minute glucose sensors on the lenses will communicate wirelessly, passing data through a Windows platform, smartphone or tablet device.

Babak Parviz, a researcher involved within the project, explained how the measurements are taken:

"What is inside the blood, to a degree, appears on the surface of the eye. So there is a reflection of the body chemistry directly on the surface of the eye. If you have a contact lens that can sample that surface, analyse it, and maybe send out the information through a radio, this contact lens, in principle, can give us information about what's happening inside the body without actually going into the body or collecting a blood sample."

This kind of technology could improve the quality of life for diabetes sufferers worldwide. Microsoft are also developing ways to automatically display information to the user -- potentially including alerts and reminders to help maintain insulin and glucose levels.

Type 1 Diabetes users have to perform several checks a day on their insulin and glucose levels. This is a reoccurring and painful event that requires the individual to pierce their skin with a pressurized needle. The computing giant hopes that these contact lenses could irrevocably remove the requirement to use needles on a daily basis, taking away the invasive nature of coping with diabetes.

The Washington-based corporation is planning to make the lens product available to consumers "as soon as everything is ready". Let's hope it doesn't take too long.

Photo credit: Niek Beck/Flickr

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