Smart Contact Lenses Can Detect Diabetes, Treat Diabetic Retinopathy

A research team has developed wirelessly-driven “smart contact lens” technology that is able to detect diabetes and treat diabetic retinopathy just through wearing them.

Research into light-based diagnostic and therapeutic devices has been ongoing for several years now, especially at Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH). Recently, the POSTECH research team developed wirelessly-driven “smart contact lens” technology that is able to detect diabetes and treat diabetic retinopathy just through wearing them.1

In a recent publication of the study’s findings in Science Advances, the team explained that the lenses are made of biocompatible polymers and integrate biosensors, as well as drug delivery and data communication systems, which permits electrical signals to diagnose and treat diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.1

When testing rabbits, the team found that the glucose level in the tears of diabetic rabbits allowed for an effective analysis by the smart contact lenses. The results of the analysis of these tears also matched the blood glucose level found in the rabbits through the use of a conventional glucose sensor that tests drawn blood, which is a more traditional method of diabetic testing. The team also explained that medicine was encased in the smart contact lenses, which allowed for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.1

The platform technology present in these smart contact lenses has previously been found to be applicable to the treatment of brain disorders, such as Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases, and mental illnesses, including depression. These disorders have been shown to effectively respond to treatment using electrical stimulation, which is within the scope of electroceuticals.1

Further development of self-controlled therapeutic smart contact lenses with real-time biometric analysis is expected to be applied to wearable health care industries soon, according to the study authors.2

“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,” said Sei Kwang Han, PhD, who led the research, in a press release. “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.”2

REFERENCES

  • Lee G, Moon H, Kim H, et al. Multifunctional materials for implantable and wearable photonic healthcare devices. Nature Reviews Materials. 2020;5(2):149. doi: 10.1038/s41578-019-0167-3.
  • Smart contact lenses that diagnose and treat diabetes [news release]. ScienceDaily. April 28, 2020. sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200428091502.htm. Accessed April 30, 2020.