Diabete, lenti a contatto smart per misurare la glicemia

Sono centinaia di milioni in tutto il mondo i pazienti che quotidianamente fanno uso di un ago e del proprio reflettometro per la misurazione della glicemia. Google, in collaborazione con Alcon, sta mettendo a punto un nuovo e fantascientifico metodo di rilevazione del tasso di glucosio nel sangue in grado di evitare le ripetute e fastidiose punture dei polpastrelli: lenti a contatto con sensori integrati.

Superato lo scoglio di rendere accessibili contenuti ludici e applicativi di lavoro in qualsiasi posto ci si trovasse, la nuova sfida che il mercato della tecnologia sembra essersi posto è il miglioramento del benessere e della qualità di vita di chi i propri apparecchi li utilizza.

Complice l’avvento degli smartphone, che ha cambiato radicalmente il concetto di tecnologia in movimento, oggi i colossi produttori di devices stanno progressivamente spostando il proprio interesse verso la produzione di dispositivi indossabili, capaci di monitorare sempre più parametri biologici rendendoli accessibili in qualsiasi momento della giornata.

Sono tanti gli accessori che si sono fatti largo in questo universo, tra bilance, misuratori della pressione e braccialetti in grado di monitorare gran parte delle nostre attività quotidiane (sonno, veglia, attività fisica, funzionalità cardiaca ecc.). Ma siamo solo all’inizio.

Tra gli ultimi ritrovati in termini di tecnologia, particolare scalpore ha suscitato la notizia di una nuova lente a contatto in grado di misurare la glicemia nel soggetto che la indossa.

Tutto nasce dall’accordo tra Google e il ramo oculistico del colosso farmaceutico svizzero Novartis. I ricercatori di entrambe le aziende si sono chiesti come fare per rendere la misurazione della glicemia (ovvero il tasso di glucosio nel sangue) facile e soprattutto poco invasiva. E’ presto detto: usiamo le lenti a contatto!

Attraverso una lente in idrogel, su cui è impiantato un sistema di micro sensori alimentati da una altrettanto microscopica batteria, sarà possibile misurare la quantità di glucosio nel liquido lacrimale, senza infierire minimamente sulla visione.

Secondo i ricercatori che sono a lavoro sul progetto, il biofilm lacrimale rifletterebbe gli stessi livelli di glucosio presenti nel sangue e l’affidabilità della lente sarebbe dunque sovrapponibile a quella di un esame eseguito con il classico reflettometro.

Il paziente, così, non avrà più necessità di farsi continue e ripetute micropunture per la rilevazione della glicemia durante l’arco della giornata, ma potrà accedere tranquillamente ai dati tramite un applicativo in grado di comunicare con la lente stessa ogni volta che lo desidera.

Inoltre il device sarebbe in grado di rilevare sia l’ipoglicemia che l’iperglicemia e segnalarla al paziente tramite un feedback luminoso prima ancora che il soggetto se ne accorga.

Ci sono, tuttavia, numerose perplessità che non convincono ancora gli scienziati che osservano da lontano l’avvento di questa grande innovazione: in primis c’è la poco chiara correlazione tra liquido lacrimale e concentrazione ematica di glucosio; inoltre non vanno sottovalutati alcuni fattori, per esempio piccole irritazioni dell’occhio o scarsa lacrimazione, che possono alterare i risultati forniti dal sensore.

Alla Alcon, il ramo oculistico della Novartis, assicurano che ci si trova ancora nelle primissime fasi di sviluppo e ancora c’è molto da migliorare.

In effetti non si tratta della prima volta che si tenta di soppiantare il tanto antico quanto efficace metodo di misurazione della glicemia tramite micro-puntura su polpastrello, introdotto oltre 30 anni fa. In tal senso i ricercatori sono piuttosto interessati ai liquidi secreti dalle ghiandole e non solo: la NovioSense sta sfruttando, come la Novartis e Google, il liquido lacrimale per i suoi device; la Farmington, invece, sta studiando metodi di rilevazione della glicemia tramite la saliva; Apple pare stia lavorando per implementare un sensore in grado di misurare la glicemia tramite il proprio smartwatch; e ancora altre aziende hanno tentato con tanti altri metodi, tra cui l’analisi dell’aria espirata o la spettroscopia a infrarossi, che tuttavia hanno riportato dati incoerenti e, per questo motivo, fallimentari.

Per quanto riguarda l’occhio, invece, altre patologie si stanno servendo di approcci basati sull’utilizzo di lenti a contatto: un’altra azienda svizzera, la Sensimed, ha sviluppato una lente a contatto in grado di misurare la pressione oculare in soggetti affetti da glaucoma, mentre gli scienziati del Massachusetts General Hospital di Boston stanno mettendo a punto un’altra lente capace di rilasciare gradualmente farmaci antinfiammatori per periodi di tempo fino a 30 giorni.

Ma tornando al progetto Google, Alcon ipotizza e si augura che il proprio gioiello – prodotto in collaborazione con il colosso di Mountain View – possa essere utilizzato anche per la correzione dei deficit visivi del paziente (in particolare la presbiopia), così come avviene con le attuali lenti a contatto: i ricercatori stanno sviluppando un sistema che permetta di modificare il diametro della lente sulla base delle informazioni luminose ricevute da un sensore a foto-diodi. Un’ipotesi tanto fantascientifica quanto affascinante che potrebbe essere messa in atto anche in ambito chirurgico con lo sviluppo di una lente intraoculare simile a quella che viene attualmente impiantata per la cura della cataratta.

Il grande topic del XXI secolo, il benessere, è quindi diventato uno degli obiettivi principali di società apparentemente lontane da questo universo ma che, tuttavia, sono in grado di investire ingenti quantità di denaro.
E se fino al secolo scorso tutto ciò era ottimo materiale per i migliori film di fantascienza, nei prossimi anni potrebbe essere invece una realtà consolidata al servizio del benessere e del miglioramento della qualità di vita.

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