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Camera monitors blood sugar via eye scans

Diabetes sufferers could one day measure their blood sugar levels using a handheld camera that analyses changes in the eye.

Lein Applied Diagnostics is developing the technology to allow people to take glucose readings without drawing blood, which could also be used for eye surgery, detecting glaucoma or measuring drug dispersal.

The Reading-based firm, started by two former optical communications experts, has produced a desktop prototype camera and hopes to have a mobile-phone-sized version ready for trials within 18 months.

The camera scans light from the anterior (front chamber) of the eye to look for changes in the way the waves are refracted, and this information can be used to calculate the level of blood sugar in the body.

‘We’re basically using the eye as a cuvette [test tube] of solutions in the body,’ Lein’s director Dr Dan Daly told The Engineer. ‘Instead of drawing fluid out you shine light in and measure the optical changes rather than chemical changes.

‘The components in the meter itself are very much like a CD player read head. A light source, a light receiver and a scanning element, that’s pretty much all you need to make the measurement – plus the software.’

A similar technology is currently used in microscopes that create three-dimensional images, Daly added. Lein’s camera uses a smaller, simpler version that carries out a one-dimensional linear scan.

Developing and testing the technology has so far cost millions of pounds, with funding coming from a syndicate of angel investors and venture capital firms. Millions more will be spent on conducting clinical trials for one to two years before the device can be brought to market.

Lein also needs to develop the software that determines the blood sugar levels from the camera’s readings so it can give safe predictions to diabetes sufferers who need to calculate the amount of insulin they might need to inject.

The firm sees diabetes as the biggest market because sufferers often have to measure their glucose levels several times a day and the typical method of finger pricking can be inconvenient and painful.

Lein’s technology has several other potential uses. ‘By scanning the eye you can see how thick the cornea is, where the lens is, those sort of things, and that’s very useful to optometrists who are doing laser eye surgery, cataract operations or glaucoma testing,’ said Daly.

The firm is also working with researchers at Durham University to examine how measuring the frequency of the light from the eye could help measure the amount of pharmaceutical drugs in the body.


Readers' comments (8)

  • Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant and I hope we see the end result. Not like a lot of other inventions never heard of again.

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  • As the parent of a Type1 Diabetic this is brilliant news. Congratulations to all involved

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  • What a wonderful device, hope it gets introduced soon. Being a Type 1 diabetic for a long time, it would not nice not to have to prick the fingers every day to test blood glucose, and use this instead.

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  • Wonderful idea and device...genius.
    Is There a way that my 15 year old son can contribute to the study?
    It could help him and millions of diabetes sufferers.
    We live in the U.S.
    State of Massachusettes

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  • Why is this not Open Source? There are many people who would volunteer their skills to solve the hardware and software problems that deter the solution. Where are the references to making the required measurements?

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  • My son has been a type 1 diabetic for 34 yrs. now on an insulin pump. This device would be another wonderful step forward. Thank you all so much for the hours of study & research that you undertake.

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  • What a brilliant idea - I really hope this get into production, so many ideas in the past for blood glucose monitoring have come to nothing. Having been married to a diabetic for over 30 years I have seen first hand the damage caused by four times a day blood monitoring.

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  • The "blood stick" test strips curently used, often several times a day, by those who suffer from diabetes are hugely profitable to companies such as Roche who make them. Be very careful that this excellent research doesn't get bought out or otherwise stamped on in order to maintain the profits of the giant pharmas.

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