Nature-inspired contact lenses for continuous glucose monitoring in type 1 diabetic children

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Haider Butt

    University of Birmingham

Project summary

Over 3.9 million people have diabetes in the UK and living with it can be extremely difficult. People with diabetes need to regularly monitor their blood glucose levels and need to prick their fingers up to five times a day. This process is painful and it has low patient compliance, particularly among children. Researchers have tried creating ways to detect glucose concentrations in body fluids such as tears, saliva and urine.

We propose to develop contact lenses that change colour based on the variation in the concentrations of glucose in tears. This will allow continuous monitoring of glucose concentrations by observing eye colour using a phone app. The contact lenses will be developed using hydrogels which change colour due to the changes in glucose concentrations. The colour changes will be produced by surface texturing from arrays of nanostepped-pyramids inspired from the 3D structures that account for the bright blue colours displayed by morpho butterflies. This will provide a unique platform for producing contact lenses which reversibly sense analytes in tears.

The development of these contact lenses could make it easier for people with diabetes to monitor and manage their blood glucose levels.