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Diagnosing Diseases With Smart Phones

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A doctor using a smartphone.

A disease diagnostic system under development will offer results that can be read using a smartphone and an inexpensive lens attachment.


University of Houston (UH) researchers are developing a disease diagnostic system that offers results that could be read using a smartphone and an inexpensive lens attachment.

The device utilizes specific chemical interactions that form between something that causes a disease and a molecule that bonds with that one thing only. The device includes a glass slide and a thin film of gold with thousands of holes poked in it.

The device diagnoses an illness by blocking the light with a disease antibody bond. Disease antibodies first are placed in the holes, where they are coaxed into sticking to the glass surface. A biological sample then flows over the slide. If the sample contains the desired bacteria or virus, it will bond with the antibody in the hole. The antibodies have enzymes attached to them that produce silver particles when exposed to certain chemicals. The entire system is then exposed to the chemicals that encourage silver production, which will completely block the light from getting through the holes.

The smartphone's camera, flash, and attachable lens can show whether holes are blocked. "If both your disposables and your reader are cheap, that makes it a lot easier to extend your system out into the real world," says Richard Willson, Huffington-Woestemeyer Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UH's Cullen College of Engineering.

From University of Houston News
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