If you want a sense of what is coming, look no further than the recently announced Google X labs prototype of a blood-glucose (sugar) monitor embedded in a contact lens.
Traditionally blood sugar measurement has required obtaining blood samples, which inherently makes the measurements intermittent rather than continuous. And while great advances have been made in reducing the discomfort associated with drawing blood for testing, the process is still unpleasant and means that often diabetics do not monitor their blood levels as much as they should. Blood glucose levels change rapidly throughout a person’s day, and failure to control them can result in both acute and chronic problems.
Current blood glucose meters are electronic devices that require very little blood, are fast, automatically calibrated (‘no coding’), and store multiple results which can be downloaded to a computer to share with primary care physicians.
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is already possible, but depends on implanted devices that measure interstitial fluid levels that lag behind changes in blood levels, and must be recalibrated on a regular basis against external blood measurements.
Automated data capture methods available with current devices are already demonstrating the value of helping patients track their glucose levels over time, understanding how well they are controlling levels, factors that impact those levels, and sharing the results with their physicians to optimize treatment plans.
The Google X contact lens is only the latest of many glucose detection methods that have been explored over the years. It may or may not make it to the market in something like its current form. However, its use of a tiny microscopic, wireless chip that takes a reading every second (i.e. near continuous) illustrates the capabilities of the sensors now in development.