An App That Can Diagnose Disease?

smart phone diagnosis

Is an app that can diagnose diseases a possibility? Image: Florida Atlantic University via Science Daily.

New developments in biosensor technologies could result in a smartphone app that can diagnose such diseases as HIV, E-coli, and Staphylococcus aureas. A team of researchers at Florida Atlantic University, Stanford University, and Harvard University are working together to develop cheap, disposable biosensing platforms.

Beginning with the argument that existing paper and other flexible platforms aren’t good enough, they have developed a thin, flexible, and lightweight platform that is easy to produce and doesn’t require significant infrastructure to do so. Combined with electrical and optical sensors, the platform can read whole blood and identify a wide range of bacteria within the bloodstream with the help of existing antibodies.

In the long run, the result could be applications on personal devices such as smartphones, which would allow people to diagnose themselves with a small blood or saliva sample. Whether or not an IOS or Android app is in the future, the platform created by these researchers could still have a big impact on medicine. Diagnosis can be a long and expensive process, and is especially stressful in developing countries, where the infrastructure to diagnose diseases can be lacking.

Existing biosensor technologies are expensive to produce, as they rely on colorimetric, fluorometric, and electrochemical processes to identify bacteria, which can effectively put them out of the reach of less funded clinics and hospitals. This new platform is also easy and safe to dispose of, namely by burning them, which can help reduce the chance of biosensors inadvertently spreading disease due to improper disposal.

The introduction of cheap, reliable, and fast systems such as this could be a boon to patients everywhere, allowing them to fast-track the process of getting treatment. Researchers picture a not-too-distant future where applications or even small personal devices can monitor a person’s health with saliva samples, and do much more than current health monitoring devices.

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