Dr Jun Hu, a researcher at the University of Akron, has made a major breakthrough in the use of non-invasive technology for continuous blood glucose monitoring in diabetic patients using a contact lens and smartphone application.

Users simply wear a contact lens throughout the day and if at any point their body is not properly metabolizing blood sugar and glucose concentration builds up in the body, the contact lens will detect the problem and change color. Users will not notice the change in color unless they look in the mirror, so the researchers are developing a smartphone app which will be used to take pictures of the lens throughout the day to measure sugar concentration in the lens.

“It works just like pH paper in your high school chemistry lab,” explains Dr. Jun Hu, associate professor of chemistry at The University of Akron. Adding:

“The pH paper changes color depending on the acidity or the proton concentration of the liquid applied. That is similar to what happens in our specially designed contact lens, the sugar molecule literally acting like the proton in a pH test, displacing a color dye embedded in the lens, and the lens changes color. ”

“This device could be used to detect subtle changes in blood sugar levels for tight management of diabetes. It can also be used to identify patients with pre-diabetic conditions, allowing early diagnosis that is crucial for preventing diabetes from advancing. Glucose concentrations in tears can be used to intermittently or continuously monitor diabetic patients just as effectively as blood sugar levels measured directly from blood from a pricked finger.”

In the highly competitive glucose monitoring space, the holy grail would be the development of a highly efficient and accurate technology that does not require puncturing the skin to draw blood. Several companies are attempting to bring to market various technologies that claim to do just that, such as Echo Therapeutics, but these products have met little success in earning the approval of FDA regulators.

This is a very exciting innovation which could be a HUGE business if the research team at Akron is able to successfully commercialize the technology. Dr. Hu is definitely someone to pay close attention to over the coming years. See the videos below of Dr. Hu describing his technology and the potential for such an innovation to radically impact the lives of diabetics.