With a whooping 422 million diabetic patients in this world, are pricking fingers and drawing blood the most efficient ways to constantly keep track of our blood sugar levels? Well, not anymore because researchers have developed an ultra-thin, flexible sensor that could be incorporated into contact lenses or on the backs of watches for real-time glucose tracking.
These wearable glucose sensors are in development, but have been hampered by several factors. Some devices can’t detect the low levels of glucose that are in sweat and tears, or they stop working when they’re bent. The device has not been tested in humans. However, the research team expects that the release of this device will offer diabetics a pain-free way to measure their glucose levels in the blink of an eye.
To tackle these problems, researchers led by Jihun Park, a materials scientist at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, designed a set of components out of soft and flexible electronic materials that, wherever possible, were also transparent.
The included two devices- an antenna and a rectifier, that capture radiofrequency signals from a nearby transmitter and convert them to a small amount of electricity. That charge powers a glucose sensor and a tiny green LED which shines outward so it is visible in a mirror but does not interfere with the wearer’s vision. If the glucose sensor registers elevated levels, the LED turns off, warning a wearer that they may need to adjust their insulin levels.
Testing showed that the device could detect a range of glucose concentrations from 10 nanomolar to 1 millimolar, which is sensitive enough to cover typical glucose levels in sweat, saliva and tears in people with and without diabetes. Bending the film 100 times didn’t noticeably affect its performance.
In addition to glucose tracking, the researchers suggest that the sensor could also be used for monitoring in the food and environmental sectors. Therefore with further development in these sensors we would be one step closer to making our fantasy of smart contact lens into a reality.