Research Roundup: Contact lenses to monitor Diabetes and a new tool against Alzheimer’s

2 February 2018

1 Designing contact lenses to monitor sugar levels in diabetics

In people with diabetes, the blood sugar level becomes abnormally high, which leads to serious health complications. Monitoring blood sugar levels is important for diabetics to maintain their blood sugar within a safe range.

A team of scientists have overcome numerous challenges to design a contact lens capable of monitoring the level of glucose, a  type of sugar. The lens material is specially designed to be soft enough so as not to cause damage to the eye while still supporting the necessary machinery. Most of the components are transparent and do not hinder vision. The lens works by  measuring the glucose level in tears as an indirect indicator of blood glucose levels. As glucose level increases, current flow in the contact lens is affected, causing an LED pixel to turn off past a cut-off point. This provides an easy way to show when blood glucose is too high.

The results have been published by Park and colleagues in the journal Science Advances. The scientists have tested the contact lens on a live rabbit and with further experiments to confirm its safety, perhaps it may find its way for human use in the near future.

2 Artificially designed helix may reduce toxicity of protein in Alzheimer’s disease

Scientists have constructed helical molecules that are structurally similar to amyloid beta, which are proteins involved in  Alzheimer’s disease.

In a report published in Science Advances, Guan and colleagues describe how making various tweaks to their artificial helices enables stronger binding to amyloid beta. Binding amyloid beta prevents them from clumping together,  which is thought to contribute to the disease. In support of this idea, the researchers found that administering these helices reduces the disease-causing effect of amyloid beta in a worm model of Alzheimer’s.

With further research, these helices may inspire similar designs for drugs. In the meantime, these artifical helices provide a tool for scientists to investigate what goes on between amyloid beta molecules in Alzheimer’s disease.