Out-smarting diabetes with glucose sensors

Hologram-based glucose sensors that diabetics can wear as contact lenses are being developed by UK researchers.

The technology is based on interactive holograms that can be engineered to change wavelength, image, brightness or position in response to a range of biological, chemical and physical stimuli.

Company director of Smart Holograms and inventor of the technology Prof Chris Lowe explained that while conventional holograms simply reflect light back, the smart holograms contain a 5–10 micron thick layer of soft gel. Lowe explained that by putting different kinds of receptor into this gel, the reflected light can be altered in the presence of whatever stimulus you want to measure.

‘The secret is to have a smart polymer in there that has a receptor for the thing that you’re trying to measure; when it binds with the complementary ligand (a molecule that binds to a receptor protein) a change in hydration, ph, or some other parameter will cause a change in colour,’ he said.

Smart Holograms is now working with a leading healthcare company on the further development of the glucose sensor. Lowe said that a product launch is probably a couple of years away and declined to reveal the company’s identity, but said that a subcutaneous version of the system has already undergone proof of concept tests on a volunteer.

As well as glucose monitoring, the company has developed a portable pathogen sensor device, the PathoTester, for use in the clinical and military markets, and is looking at licensing opportunities in a whole range of industries including the food and beverage sectors and even the toy market.

The company has raised £3m in first-round venture capital funding, and last year it was awarded £1.4m by the DTI to collaborate in the development of a system for diabetics in which readings are transferred from glucose sensors to a user’s mobile phone and then sent off for remote analysis.