Recently, Google’s secretive research lab Google X released information regarding their work on a smart contact lens that continuously measures glucose readings, as frequently as once per second.
In the announcement, they also discuss the potential for early warnings that could be displayed to the user via the contact lens using tiny LED lights.
They caution that the project is in very preliminary stages, but note that they have completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype and have held discussions with the FDA.
Their current prototypes include a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material, combined with an antenna to transmit readings, that are measured as often as once per second. Google X’s other high-profile projects include Project Glass and Google Maps’ fleet of driverless cars.
As an endocrinology fellow and tech enthusiast, I applaud this intersection of mHealth and the growing popularity of wearable sensors. Small and wearable continuous glucose monitors (like the Dexcom G4) already exist in the form of a small patch worn on the abdomen, and a smart, glucose-sensing contact lens would be a significant paradigm shift for diabetic patients. The ability to accurately measure glucose via a sensor as non-invasive as a contact lens would literally change lives for patients, their loved ones, and their providers.
While the concept of glucose-sensing contact lenses is not entirely new, and while there have been recent rumors that tech behemoths like Apple are hiring high-profile executives very familiar with glucose sensors, the timing of the announcement and the revelation that Google X has already built such prototypes on the scale of something as small as a contact lens exceeded even my most optimistic predictions. Furthermore, the entrance of major consumer technology companies like Google and Apple, which are known for iterating at a breakneck pace, into the slow-moving and highly regulated medical device industry provides an intriguing storyline in its own regard.