Diabetes diagnosis - now a matter of sweat and tears?

21 Jan 2020

No need to draw blood; researchers develop smart technology to diagnose diabetes and treat diabetic retinopathy.

A research team from POSTECH has developed technology that allows diagnosis of diabetes and treatment of diabetic retinopathy just by wearing ‘Smart Light-emitting diode (LED) Contact Lens.’

Diabetes diagnosis - now a matter of sweat and tears?

Professor Sei Kwang Hahn and his research team have invented a smart photonic contact lens and a wearable medical device which can diagnose diabetes and treat diabetic retinopathy. Their new research results on photonic diagnosis and photonic therapy of diabetes are published on-line in Nature Reviews Materials in collaboration with a research group led by Zhenan Bao from Department of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University and David Myung from Stanford Medicine Ophthalmology.

The smart contact lens with integrated micro-LED and photodetector can measure glucose concentration in the conjunctival blood vessels by analysing the NIR light which, in turn, helps with diabetic diagnosis.

The team applied its new smart LED contact lenses to rabbits with diabetic retinopathy disease and irradiated light repeatedly for a month. This resulted in a significant reduction of angiogenesis (production of new blood vessels) in the retina and verified clinical feasibility of the smart LED contact lens for the diabetic retinopathy therapy.

This newly developed device will allow diabetic patients to monitor their blood-sugar level in real-time; it also enables medical treatment for retinopathy which is caused by diabetic complications.

Meanwhile, Professor Hahn and his research team have also developed a smart contact lens that can diagnose diabetes by analysing glucose concentration in tears and deliver drugs to treat diabetic retinopathy. Preliminary clinical tests for the developers are expected to be done in the first half of this year.

On the basis of these results, they have also developed a smart wearable medical device that can analyse glucose concentration in sweat and they verified, which could also be clinically feasible for diabetic diagnosis. Furthermore, in conjunction with PHI Biomed, they developed a blue-tooth system that can send data wirelessly allowing patients to check their diabetic diagnosis results on their mobile phones.

Professor Hahn commented: “We developed a smart LED contact lens that can diagnose diabetes and treat diabetic retinopathy with light for the first time in the world. We are planning to commercialize these smart contact lenses and smart wearable medical devices in collaboration with Stanford Medicine.”

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