My cell phone, my test lab!

An image of the dongle with a microfluidic cassette connected to an iPod touch. Credit: Tassaneewan Laksanasopin et al./Science Translational Medicine

I have posted over these six years a number of news showing the use of a cell phone to perform diagnostic activities. This is just one more, although the diagnostics performed are way more complex than the previous ones.

A team of researchers at the Columbia University have created a "test kit" to detect HIV and syphilis in 15 minutes.

The testing combines micro-fluidic with the processing provided by a cell phone (or an iPod) to detect in 15 minutes the presence of specific antibodies as tell-tale of HIV or syphilis.

The procedure. from the point of view of a nurse in the field (or even the patient himself although I do not see this as a realistic scenario...), is quite easy. You prick a finger and collect a single droplet of blood. That is enough, see the clip, for the fluidic computer to detect the presence of antibodies. An app on the cell phone does the required processing and displays the result. 
So, is it just a different, more practical way to perform these analyses? The greatest advantage of this method is in the economics. The researchers expect that the kit (and needed reagent) will cost some 34$. Compare this with the over 18,000$ needed for the present analyses and you see the difference.

Remember, technology makes it possibile, economics make the difference!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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