Biosensing contact lens that can tell when your blood sugar is getting too low, or if there’s something wrong with one of your organs. By leveraging the power of ultra-thin transistor technology, researchers from Oregon State University have taken us a step closer to achieving that goal.
Researcher has developed a transparent biosensor that, when added to a contact lens, could conceivably be used to detect symptoms an array of health conditions. Currently, a lab-tested prototype can only detect blood glucose levels, but in the future, the team believes it could detect other medical conditions, possibly even cancer. It’ll be a few years before we see such futuristic contact lenses on pharmacy shelves, but the technologies required to build this noninvasive diagnostic device largely exists today. This research will be presented today at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
To get started, Herman piggybacked off an idea he and his colleagues came up with a few years ago, a semiconductor composed of the compound gallium zinc oxide (IGZO). This is the same semiconductor that has revolutionized electronics, allowing for higher resolution televisions, smartphones, and tablets. Herman now wants to apply a similar technology to diagnostic medicine.
To make the prototype contact lens, the researchers fabricated a biosensor containing a transparent sheet of IGZO transistors and glucose oxidase—an enzyme that breaks down glucose. When this biosensor comes into contact with glucose, the enzyme oxidizes the blood sugar. This causes the pH level in the mixture to shift, triggering measurable changes in the electrical current flowing through the IGZO transistors. Tiny nanostructures were embedded within the IGZO biosensor, allowing the transparent device to detect minute glucose concentrations found in tears.
The sensor is still in the development phase, and it has yet to be attached to a contact lens. Eventually (and ideally), a souped-up version of this device will transmit data via radio frequency (RF) to a receiver. As a bonus, the RF signals will also power the device; in future, a tiny antenna will be used to charge the capacitor. Currently, the prototype is not transmitting data outside of the sensor, and scientists take readings by measuring the electrical current flowing through the device.