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Did your eyes just change colour?

People with diabetes may soon be able to monitor their glucose levels simply by looking in the mirror.

BY LÉO CHARBONNEAU | MAR 08 2010

Jin Zhang, a professor in the department of chemical and biochemical engineering at the University of Western Ontario, has developed contact lenses that change colour to alert diabetics to shifts in their glucose levels.

The contacts are made up of engineered nanoparticles that are embedded in the hydrogel lenses and that chemically react to glucose molecules found in tears. If enough glucose is present, the contacts change colour. This non-invasive technology could replace the need for diabetics to routinely draw blood throughout the day to test their glucose levels.

“I know how people can suffer from having to continually monitor their blood. It can be very uncomfortable,” Dr. Zhang told the university’s Western News. “This non-invasive method is now an alternative choice to help manage their treatment.”

Dr. Zhang recently received $215,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to further develop her research on multifunctional nanocomposites. These materials have vast potential applications beyond biomedical devices, she said.

For example, nanocomposite films could be used in food packaging to prevent food spoilage by preventing oxygen, carbon dioxide and moisture from reaching fresh meats and other foods, or by measuring pathogenic contamination; other such films could make packaging increasingly biodegradable.

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