MQ health app

Smarter diagnosis

By Carrie Bengston

Macquarie University researchers are unlocking the health potential of everyday devices.

Did you know that Googling a question, playing games and posting on social media only uses a fraction of the ‘smarts’ in your smartphone? Macquarie University researchers have come up with a new and important use for our clever gadgets – to help us keep an eye on our health. They’ve developed a simple but innovative system that tests blood samples for substances that can indicate disease.

Ewa Goldys, deputy director of the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics at Macquarie University, says that a smartphone has 70% of the capability of a standard laptop. “The smartphone is an amazing piece of technology that’s capable of much more than we’re currently using it for,” she says.

We already know about apps that can count the steps you take, track your sleep and monitor your heart rate while exercising. But this new system goes further, turning smartphones into diagnostic sensing devices.

The researchers rigged up the system using little more than a smartphone and tablet. Light from the tablet screen passes through a dye-stained blood sample and is photographed by the smartphone camera. An app processes the image and alerts you if the reading is abnormal.

The system successfully measured blood levels of trypsin and collagenase – molecules that are indicators for diseases such as cystic fibrosis, arthritis and pancreatitis. But it could be adapted for other human and animal diseases.

Especially in remote locations or developing countries, this kind of diagnostic testing could be a lifeline for people managing their own, or even their animals’, health. Taking photos has never been so healthy – or smart!

STEM Contributor

Author: STEM Contributor

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