South Korean Researchers Develop Smart LED Contact Lens to Diagnose Diabetes

LED Contact Lens for Diabetes diagnosis
Image: Pixabay

A team of researchers from Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea (POSTECH) developed a technology that allows diagnosis of diabetes and treatment of diabetic retinopathy by wearing smart light-emitting diode (LED) contact lenses.

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The team, led by professor Sei Kwang Hahn, including his PhD student Geon-Hui Lee, also created a wearable medical device for diabetics.

Integrated with micro-LED and photodetector, the smart contact lens can measure glucose concentration in the conjunctival blood vessels by analyzing the NIR light, reports Medical Device Network.

“We have developed the world’s first smart contact lens to diagnose diabetes and treat diabetic retinopathy with light,” Hahn said. “We are planning to pursue commercialization of smart contact lenses and smart wearable medical devices through joint research with the Stanford Medical School.”

An eye ball
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, known as the retina (Image: Wikimedia Commons, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health)

To test their device, the researchers put the smart LED contact lenses on rabbit eyes with diabetic retinopathy disease and irradiated light repeatedly for a month. The research report shows there was significant reduction of angiogenesis in retina and verified clinical feasibility of the smart LED contact lens for the diabetic retinopathy therapy.

This newly developed device will not only let diabetic patients monitor their blood-sugar level in real-time but also enable medical treatment for retinopathy which is caused by diabetic complications. The smart contact lens can diagnose diabetes from glucose concentration in tears.

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On the basis of these results, the team also developed a smart wearable medical device that can do highly sensitive analysis on the glucose concentration in sweat and they verified that it could be clinically feasible for diabetic diagnosis. Also, in collaboration with PHI Biomed company, they developed a blue-tooth system that can send data wirelessly allowing patients to check their diabetic diagnosis results on their mobile phones.