Kent Peterson, senior editor at UpWell, has also produced award-winning work in television and radio.

Move over, Google, Apple, and anyone else who has tried to perfect a contact lens that monitors blood sugar. There’s a new lens in town, and it promises important advantages.

Researchers in South Korea have shown off a working prototype of a contact lens with built-in wireless smart sensors. Unlike previous lenses, this one is made with transparent and flexible materials.

Other attempts to make glucose-sensing contact lenses have struggled because they were made with rigid materials that were uncomfortable to wear and their sensors blocked part of the field of vision. The new lens and sensors are said to overcome both obstacles.

Using the lens

Glucose levels in tears rise and fall just as glucose does in your bloodstream, so tears can provide precise and accurate measures of where you stand.

Experts hope that the new lens could one day eliminate the need to prick your finger to measure blood glucose levels. Instead, the amount of glucose in tears would be continuously monitored while you wear the lens, with real-time data transmitted to your smartphone or another diabetes device.

That’s not all

Not only does the new lens track glucose levels, it also enables wearers to monitor harmful pressure that could build up in the eye. That’s a risk factor for glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness. People with diabetes have an above-average chance of developing glaucoma. The lens could help people with glaucoma get early diagnosis and treatment before the disease worsens.

Researchers also believe the same sensor technology could be further developed to enable simpler detection and monitoring of other diseases.

The study was jointly conducted by researchers at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and Kyungpook National University. Results were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

When could you buy it?

It’s exciting to see this technology on the horizon—but it’s too soon to say if or when the new superlens will hit the market. Further testing and approval, even if successful, could take years.

Would you wear a glucose-monitoring contact lens? Tell us what you think the advantages or disadvantages would be by commenting below.

Photo: UNIST