University of Houston team creates glucose-sensing contact lens

A University of Houston researcher has developed a contact lens to detect glucose in tears using gold nanowires, gold film and Raman spectroscopy. It could become a noninvasive alternative to traditional blood glucose tracking, which requires a blood draw.

Wei-Chuan Shih, an associate professor at UH, and his team built a tiny device from several layers of gold nanowires stacked on top of a gold film, according to a statement. It is produced using solvent-assisted nanotransfer printing, which optimizes surface-enhanced Raman scattering, a technique that uses the way photons of light scatter when encountering a material to determine the properties of the material’s constituent molecules. In this case, it would indicate glucose levels in tears.

While it is known that glucose is present in tears as well as blood, the correlation between blood glucose and tear glucose levels has yet to be determined, Shih said in the statement.

The device’s initial use is to detect glucose in tears, but the researchers said the tech could have other potential applications: “Everyone knows tears have a lot to mine,” Shih said. “The question is, whether you have a detector that is capable of mining it, and how significant is it for real diagnostics.”

Meanwhile, Verily has been developing a similar device, confirming in 2014 that it was inventing a contact lens to help diabetics monitor their glucose levels. But a STAT report revealed in 2016 that no company has found a way to get glucose data from tears that reflect blood glucose levels.