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.