Are Contact Lenses the Next Breakthrough in Blood Glucose Monitoring?

If you have diabetes or know someone who does, you know that monitoring blood glucose levels is essential to good health. Through these readings, individuals can track whether their blood sugar is too high, too low, or just right. However, current methods include finger pricks to test blood or the insertion of tiny electrodes under the skin for continuous monitoring. Both methods have their pros and cons.

Dr. Gregory S. Herman, a chemical engineering professor at Oregon State University, and two of his colleagues are striving to change this process. They have been leveraging the power of chemistry and technology to develop contact lenses with transparent sensors that would deliver critical health information such as blood glucose levels. These bio-sensing contact lenses could be replaced daily and are non-invasive.

So how would they work? Dr. Herman and his team created a biosensor “containing a transparent sheet of IGZO [indium gallium zinc oxide] field-effect transistors and glucose oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down glucose.” As glucose was added, it was oxidized and changed the pH level of the mixture, which was detected by the current in the IGZO transistor. Because the concentration of glucose in the eye is very low, they had to create a sensor that was extremely sensitive and could detect glucose at a much lower concentration level than traditional biosensors.

According to Herman, “In theory, more than 2,000 transparent biosensors – each measuring different bodily function – could be embedded in a 1-millimeter square patch of an IGZO contact lens. Once developed, the biosensors could transmit vital health information to smartphones and other Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled devices.”

This could change the way individuals with diabetes manage their health moving forward. Though the prototype could be a year or more away from beginning testing in animals, they are continuing to research and make progress on this initiative. They have received funding from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Northwest Nanotechnology Infrastructure.

Though not involved with this specific project, the Diabetes Research Connection also supports this type of research and innovation to make positive changes in the lives of those living with type 1 diabetes. The organization raises funds to support researchers in studies and projects to raise awareness, improve diagnosis and treatment, and search for cures for type 1 diabetes. To learn more, visit

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