US researchers have developed potentially game-changing low-cost smartphone-enabled medical diagnostic technology.
The smartphone accessory - known as a spectral transmission-reflectance-intensity (TRI)-Analyzer – performs liquid sample-based disease tests.
Priced at just $550 – a fraction of the cost of traditional lab equipment – it’s less “specialised device”, more “portable laboratory”, according to lead researcher Kenny Long and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Chicago.
Long and other research team members combined 3D-printing with novel engineering techniques to produce this spectral-analysis system.
A highly versatile device, their TRI Analyzer is able to process blood, saliva or urine samples: the ‘key three.’ To do so, it draws on two features found on every smartphone: the camera and the flash. The camera’s used for its optics, while the flash illuminates the samples provided.
Blood, Saliva Or Urine
Professor Brian Cunningham – in whose lab the TRI Analyzer was developed – calls his product “the Swiss Army knife of bio-sensing”, meaning it’s versatile and has a wide array of prospective applications now waiting for it. “It’s capable of performing the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics…”, Cunningham adds, “…so in practice, thousands of already-developed tests could be adapted to it.”
Cost-effective, on-demand medical testing is a potentially massive breakthrough for the healthcare industry. Patients unable to reach labs, for example, could send their own test data straight to doctors for analysis instead. At the same time, clinics unable to access full-scale testing facilities could add in-house blood/saliva/urine analyses to their services without needing to make prohibitively costly investments.
Health diagnostic use aside, Cunningham also foresees applications in environmental monitoring, drug testing, animal health verification and quality control processes. Although patented, the technology is also licensable, the University of Illinois writes.
‘Multimode smartphone biosensing: the transmission, reflection, and intensity spectral TRI Analyzer’- the team’s written account of its findings – is set for publication soon in ‘Lab on a Chip.’ Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation.
Spectral Analysis image copyright Gerovitus – courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Used as per Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License