Korean Research Team Develops ‘Smart Contact Lenses’ That Are Able to Check Blood Sugar Level and Intraocular Pressure

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Technology that can check blood sugar level and intraocular pressure through contact lenses has been developed.

Co-research team led by Professor Park Jang-woong of Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology’s (UNIST, Chancellor Jung Moo-young) New Material Engineering Development has developed ‘Smart Contact Lenses’.

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In order to diagnose diabetes, blood sugar level has to be measured. However drawing blood every time to check blood sugar level can be very inconvenient and painful. Because blood sugar level can be measured by tear, many had been attempting to develop contact lens sensor to measure blood sugar level.

However it was difficult to commercialize previous contact lens sensors because they blocked one’s view due to non-transparent electrodes and used plastic as the material for lenses.

Research team led by Professor Park has developed transparent and flexible sensor by using grapheme and metallic nano-wires. By applying this sensor to soft contact lenses that are sold on markets, it was able to check wearers’ blood sugar level and intraocular pressure in real-time. Blood sugar level and intraocular pressure are the major indexes in diagnosis of diabetes and glaucoma.

Smart Contact Lenses that are made by applying this sensor senses blood sugar level information in tear and sends the information wirelessly. Because these lenses use wireless antenna within a sensor to send information and to receive electricity, they do not need separate power supplies.

‘Smart Contact Lenses’ developed by a research team led by Professor Park Jang-woong of UNIST

‘Smart Contact Lenses’ developed by a research team led by Professor Park Jang-woong of UNIST

One can also use these lenses to measure intraocular pressure. When there is continuous high intraocular pressure, it pressurizes optic nerve and induces glaucoma.

Measurement of intraocular pressure is done by dielectric layer that is located within a sensor. Although electricity does not go through dielectric layer, it is a layer that shows popularity as it is divided into positive charge and negative charge. Research team has designed this layer so that it becomes thin if intraocular pressure rises and it becomes thick when pressure goes down.

After applying Smart Contact Lenses to an eye of a live rabbit, these lenses were able to maintain their functions even when lenses were modified or when they were exposed to many foreign substances within tear and detect information regarding necessary blood sugar level and intraocular pressure.

“We have made Smart Contact Lenses after developing two types of transparent electronic sensors and applying them to lenses.” said Professor Park Jang-woong on the 27th. “It is a new technology that allows one to diagnose diabetes and glaucoma just by wearing these lenses.”

Professor Park, Professor Lee Chang-young of UNIST’s Bioscience Department, Professor Byun Young-jae of UNIST’s Electrical and Electronic Computer Engineering Department, and Professor Kim Hong-kyoon and Professor Bae Gui-hyeon of Kyungbok University’s Medical Department had participated in this research. Result of this research is published on ‘Nature Communications’ on the 27th.

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Staff Reporter Lim, Dongshik | dslim@etnews.co

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