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Bio-sensing contact lenses

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, October 13, 2010
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Bio-sensing contact lenses

Technology: Contact lenses with microscopic optical, electronic, and bio-sensing devices that continuously monitor and display information about a patient's health through the biochemistry of the eye surface—displaying the information with numbers or symbols such as a red or green dot right on the lens 

Developers: Researchers at the University of Washington department of engineering, led by Babak Parviz, PhD

Purpose: Remote monitoring of patients' vital signs, such as blood
pressure, temperature, and heart rate

How it works: Transparent circuitry on the surface of the contact lens contains small optical, electronic, and bio-sensing devices. The lenses monitor and collect vital sign data and display the results to the user. The information appears to float on the periphery of the user's field of vision so as not to distract, and the lens is reported to be as comfortable as a regular contact lens. The device is powered by a loop antenna that draws from nearby radio sources. It could also be powered by solar energy or by cell phones and other mobile devices.

Potential improvement: No action is needed on the patient's part to gather data—making compliance that much easier and more likely. Further, the devices monitor vital signs continuously, gathering a greater depth and breadth of data. Continuous monitoring, for example, could allow diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels without having to take blood samples—the device would read glucose levels from the surface of the eye and display it for the patient. 

What's next: In the future, the information gathered from the lens could be sent to the patient and his or her doctor via text message or e-mail. Although the researchers have a functional prototype, the device needs FDA approval and is not yet commercially available. Some organizations have expressed an interest in developing products that use the technology.

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