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'Smart' contact lenses to help diabetics

Swiss drugmaker Novartis has struck an agreement with Google to develop "smart" contact lenses that would help diabetics to track their blood glucose levels or restore the eye's ability to focus.

The device for diabetics would measure glucose in tear fluid and send the data wirelessly to a mobile device, Novartis said.

The technology is potentially life-changing for many diabetics, who prick their fingers as many as 10 times daily to check their body's production of the sugar.

Success would allow Novartis to compete in a global blood-sugar tracking market that is expected to be worth more than US$12 billion (S$14.9 billion) by 2017, according to research firm GlobalData. 


Photo: ST

Diabetes afflicts an estimated 382 million people worldwide.

Many people with Type 1 diabetes and some with Type 2 diabetes monitor their blood glucose level to help to manage their condition and reduce the risk of health complications such as amputation and blindness.

The second element of the Google agreement is centered on presbyopia, in which ageing eyes have trouble focusing on close objects. Novartis hopes the lens technology will help to restore the eye's ability to focus, almost like the autofocus on a camera.

Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez said he hoped that a product could be on the market in about five years.

- Reuters