AsianScientist (May 26, 2020) – Scientists in South Korea have developed wireless smart contact lenses to help diabetic patients manage their disease. Not only is their wearable device able to monitor blood glucose levels, but it can also trigger the release of drugs that treat diabetic retinopathy, a medical complication that affects the eye. Their study was published in Science Advances.
In 2019, 463 million adults were reported to suffer from diabetes mellitus. People who develop diabetes have to make significant modifications to their lifestyle, such as dietary changes. Beyond that, they also need to actively monitor their blood glucose levels and receive medications to keep their condition under control. Often, these procedures, which include invasive blood tests or drug injections, can lead to a considerable amount of discomfort.
To help diabetics better manage their condition, researchers have been investigating the use of soft bioelectronics to develop wearable healthcare devices. For example, smart contact lenses present a convenient and non-invasive way to interface with the human body. However, no smart contact lenses to date have combined real-time biometric measurements with drug delivery.
Sensing an opportunity, a team of researchers at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), South Korea, integrated the smart contact lenses with ultrathin, flexible electrical circuits and a microcontroller chip. The device, which is built on a biocompatible polymer, can perform real-time biosensing and be used for controlled drug delivery. The team was led by Professor Hahn Sei Kwang from POSTECH Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Professor Sim Jae-Yoon from POSTECH’s Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering.
To test the device’s feasibility, the researchers used the lenses to measure tear sugar levels in diabetic rabbit models. They then validated the results using measurements obtained from conventional blood sugar tests. In this study, the researchers also demonstrated that they could trigger the release of the drug for treating retinopathy in diabetic rabbit eyes from its reservoir.
With this study, the team at POSTECH hopes to further investigate the use of smart contact lenses as a next-generation wearable device for eye-related and other diseases.
“By being the first to develop wireless-powered smart contact lenses that are equipped to diagnose diabetes and treat retinopathy, we expect that our research will contribute greatly to the advancement of related industries,” Hahn said.
The article can be found at: Keum et al. (2020) Wireless Smart Contact Lens for Diabetic Diagnosis and Therapy.
Source: Pohang University of Science & Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
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