Diabetes | September 12, 2014 | Author: The Super Pharmacist
Diabetes is a chronic condition characterised by absent or inadequate production of the insulin hormone. Insulin is needed to transport glucose from the bloodstream into body cells. Inside the cells, glucose is converted into energy.
International studies show that the prevalence of diabetes is rising globally. This is attributed to increases in the rates of obesity and physical inactivity, as well as ageing of the population. Other factors include better detection of diabetes and longer survival of affected individuals. Australia follows this global trend.
Research has shown that maintaining blood glucose levels within an acceptable range can lower and delay the risk for diabetic complications. Two major studies that support the importance of blood glucose control are The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial for type 1 diabetes and the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study for type 2 diabetes.
Diabetic patients struggle daily to monitor and control their blood sugar level which, if left uncontrolled, can lead to long-term damage to their eyes, kidneys and heart.
Most diabetic patients test their glucose level by drawing a tiny drop of blood, then applying the blood to a chemically active disposable 'test-strip,' but scientists are trying to find easier ways to do that by experimenting with other body fluids, such as tears. Although some people wear glucose monitors with a glucose sensor embedded under their skin, all people with diabetes must still prick their fingers and test drops of blood throughout the day. The process is disruptive and painful, and, as a result, many people with diabetes check their blood glucose less often than they should.
Internet giant, Google, is testing a smart contact lens that could visually alert patients when their blood sugar level drifts out of the acceptable range. The smart lens is fitted with tiny sensors and microchips that can measure the amount of glucose in tears. Information about blood sugar levels could be uploaded to smartphone devices and used by doctors and patients to monitor the data almost in real time, according to a statement from Google issued when the company released its prototype in January of 2014.
The company states it is also working on integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate when glucose levels drop below or rise above those recommended. Google X (the official spelling is Google [x]) is Google's top-secret lab where teams of engineers are tasked with thinking way, way, way outside the box for solutions to some of the world's biggest problems. Google X is home to the self-driving car initiative and the Internet-connected eyeglasses, Google Glass, among other improbable projects. Google X seeks to be an heir to the classic research labs, such as the Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bomb, and Bletchley Park, where code breakers cracked German ciphers and gave birth to modern cryptography.Google is greatly interested in developing technology, including wearable technology, that will help us all live better lives.
In July, 2014, Google announced a partnership with Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, to develop a smart contact lens with the potential to monitor the wearer’s blood sugar levels. Novartis said that Alcon, its eye care unit, had struck a deal to license so-called smart lens technology from one of Google's research divisions. As part of the agreement, Alcon said it would look to create products from Google's prototype smart contact lens.
Joe Jimenez, the chief executive of Novartis, acknowledged in an interview that many previous attempts to develop noninvasive glucose tests had failed, noting that the company previously tried — and failed — to develop its own glucose-monitoring contact lenses several years ago.
What makes this case different is the involvement of Google's engineers, he said. "One of the biggest hurdles was miniaturisation, and that's one of the biggest benefits that Google X brings," he said. "This is a set of engineers that are really doing incredible things with technology."
The smart lens prototypes are expected next year with the product likely to be on the shelf in the next five years. The prototype smart contact lens must undergo many rounds of rigorous testing, via human clinical trials, before it can be determined if it is accurate, safe, and effective. In addition, since it is a medical device, the lens must receive US Food and Drug Administration approval before it can be marketed and widely distributed. Before these lenses can safely go to market, researchers will need to prove that they are as effective as traditional testing methods in determining the amount of glucose in the bloodstream at any given moment.
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