Seoul: A team of researchers has developed wirelessly driven 'smart contact lens' technology that can detect diabetes and further treat diabetic retinopathy - a common visual health condition associated with the disease - just by wearing them.
The team from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea developed a wireless powered smart contact lens that can diagnose and treat diabetes by controlling drug delivery with electrical signals.
The smart contact lens was able to effectively monitor blood sugar or glucose levels. The contact lenses are made of biocompatible polymers and integrate biosensors and drug delivery and data communication systems, according to the study, published in the journal Science Advances.
"Despite the full-fledged research and development of wearable devices from global companies, the commercialisation of wireless-powered medical devices for diagnosis and treatment of diabetes and retinopathy is insufficient," said study lead researcher Sei Kwang Han from POSTECH.
"We expect that this research will greatly contribute to the advancement of related industries by being the first in developing wireless-powered smart contact lenses equipped with drug delivery system for diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, and treatment of retinopathy, he added.
According to the findings, the research team verified that the glucose level in tears of diabetic rabbits analysed by smart contact lenses matched their blood glucose level using a conventional glucose sensor that utilises drawn blood.
The team additionally confirmed that the drugs encased in smart contact lenses could treat diabetic retinopathy.
Recently, by applying the platform technology of these smart contact lenses, research has been conducted to expand the scope of electroceuticals that use electrical stimulations to treat brain disorders such as Alzheimer's and mental illnesses including depression, the authors said.
The research team expects this development of self-controlled therapeutic smart contact lenses with real-time biometric analysis to be quickly applied to wearable healthcare industries.
The research team is preparing to carry out clinical trials for the safety and validity assessment for commercialisation of smart contact lenses in collaboration with Interojo Inc., a Korea-based company engaged in the manufacture and marketing of contact lenses.