Google’s Diabetes Contact Lens Tests Glucose Levels in Tears
Yesterday, my wife sent me an article about a contact lens that Google’s secret lab was working on. No, this lens doesn’t overlay a computer screen in your field of vision, nor does it provide a visual map of turn by turn directions as you walk down the street, pointing out the nearest coffee shop or ATM machine. No, this isn’t the next generation of Google Glass. It’s arguably more life-changing than that, especially for diabetics. Google’s diabetes contact lens or ‘smart’ contact lens contains a miniature glucose sensor embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. The sensor is designed to measure glucose levels in tears. And thankfully, it doesn’t mean you have to cry all day in order to know where your blood sugar level is at. No, you won’t have to spend your days watching Beaches or thinking of puppies being rescued. The tears that lubricate your eye are enough for it to work, with prototypes being able to test glucose levels once per second. I’ll admit, that’s way faster than I can test myself and it sounds less painful and much less of a hassle.
As with any news of this type, my excitement is always met with the stark realization that it could be years or even a decade or more until this would be in the hands of diabetics. Not only does Google have a lot more development to do, telling the Wall Street Journal that “there’s still a lot more work to do to turn this technology into a system that people can use,” the harsh reality is that there are plenty of lobbyists in Washington who will be pushing back to delay this type of technology. Why? Because blood glucose test strips generate an enormous amount of money for major pharmaceutical companies and unless they develop similar products (which could violate Google’s patent), they’ll be doing everything they can to protect their profits, at the expense of diabetics like myself. Still, it is only a matter of time before technology like Google’s diabetic contact lens makes it into our hands. The demand for an easier way to test blood sugar has been staring researchers in the face for many years.
I’ve written about C8 Medisensors noninvasive CGM in the past, which used a beam of light to measure glucose levels in the interstitial fluid. However, much to my surprise, that company went under in the first half of 2013, less than a year after it had received CE Mark Approval for sale in the European Union (I discovered this after first trying to go to their website, which seemed to have suddenly vanished).
It’s sad to think that the biggest obstacles that often stand in the way of getting this type of technology into our hands are big business and big government. Whenever government interferes with the natural actions of capitalism, whether it’s the FDA or some other overreaching regulatory committee, the people undoubtedly suffer. When it takes years just to crawl through all of the government loopholes to get new technology to market, it’s no wonder so many potential products never see the light of day. The funding just runs out. However, Google is no small company. If anyone can get a technology such as a diabetes contact lens to see the light of day, it’s certainly them (read Google’s official blog post). Perhaps it’s time I trade in my iPhone for a Google Android based phone. Well, maybe not just yet, even though the future is once again looking a little brighter. Thanks Google.