Smart Contact Lenses Measure Glucose, Deliver Drugs


Researchers at the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) report development of smart contact lenses for simultaneous glucose measurement and controlled drug delivery. The research, led by Professor Sei Kwang Han, found the contact lenses resulted in low irritation in rabbits, were able to reliably detect glucose levels in tears, and could controllably release genistein, a compound that may help treat diabetic retinopathy.

Patients with diabetes experience fluctuations in blood glucose levels throughout the day. Sudden drops can leave patients at risk of losing consciousness, among other issues, while spikes can result in complications such as diabetic retinopathy or nephropathy. Closely monitoring glucose levels, and adequately providing insulin in response, is essential for symptom and care management of individuals with diabetes.

The contact lens contains a glucose sensor, a drug-delivery reservoir, a wireless power receiver coil, an integrated circuit chip, and a radio-frequency communication system. The glucose sensor was designed to measure glucose levels real-time in tears, to replace the need for invasive fingerpricks or blood glucose measurement. The drug-delivery reservoir serves as a method for controlled release of therapeutic substances, though it’s not clear whether insulin can be delivered this way. A resonant coil, made of copper, allows inductive coupling to power the circuit. Finally, the device can communicate with external computers, such as smartphones, using radiofrequency communication.

Professor Sei Kwang Han who led the research stated, in a press release, “Despite the full-fledged research and development of wearable devices from global companies, the commercialization of wireless-powered medical devices for diagnosis and treatment of diabetes and retinopathy is insufficient.” He added, “We expect that this research will greatly contribute to the advancement of related industries by being the first in developing wireless-powered smart contact lenses equipped with drug delivery system for diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, and treatment of retinopathy.”

Study in Science Advances: Wireless smart contact lens for diabetic diagnosis and therapy


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