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Apr 10, 2017 12:00 PM EDT

Oregon State University Scientists Develop Bio-Sensing Contact Lenses Aimed To Read Health Conditions [VIDEO]

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Researchers from Oregon State University have developed a method to utilize a new design feature for contact lenses by incorporating it with ultra-thin transistor technology, which is capable of reporting information regarding its user's physiological state.

For the moment, the working prototype of the innovative device is capable of detecting blood glucose levels, particularly useful for many diabetic patients. Currently, according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 29 million Americans with diabetes; one in every four does not know they are afflicted.

If the device does work in reporting physiological changes such as a rise or drop in blood sugar and subsequently issue an alert to the bio-lens wearer, its implications as an advanced medical device would be apparent.

According to Futurism, the researchers developed the biosensor with a transparent sheet of IGZO transistors and glucose oxidase as a prototype. Apparently, the biosensor mechanism would function through the enzyme oxidizing blood sugar when it encounters the device.

The shift in PH levels, which the developers say would elicit a change in the electrical current flowing through the transistors. With this, the device would be able to detect even the faintest change in glucose concentrations present in tears.

This would be highly advantageous since it would mean patients could check their blood sugar levels without drawing blood. It only hurts a bit, but consider being spared of being pricked several times a day.

According to co-author Gregory Herman, a chemical Engineer at Oregon State University, the proposed contact lenses is capable of monitoring a person's blood sugar levels throughout the day. Such continuous monitoring could potentially prevent the risk of diabetes-related health problems.

There are devices now that can do this function, however, they have to be inserted under the skin, which Live Science reported can be painful, may lead to irritation and infections, and must get replaced every several days. Contact lenses that provide non-invasive monitoring could eliminate these discomforts. An added benefit is that the lenses are virtually invisible, afflicted people can use them without feeling self-conscious, Herman said.

Potential for expanded diagnostic use

Measuring blood sugar levels is not the only potential use for the bio-sensing contact lenses. Future use could also be expanded to help monitor a wider range of other conditions, such as Cancer, glaucoma, kidney or liver disease, and even AIDS said the researchers.

Herman does give caution that the lenses are still in the development stage. It could be a year more before animal testing is conducted, and human testing could be further off.

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