Split-second results can be had by use of smartphone lab

Yes, a lab right on your smartphone that instantly diagnoses infectious diseases like malaria, coronavirus, HIV or Lyme disease or a whole slew of other health conditions, even anxiety or depression.

This small portable lab was designed by engineers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) and it plugs into your smartphone, then automatically connects you to your doctor’s office by way of a custom app that was developed by UC.

A patient puts a single-use lab chip into their mouth then plugs it into a credit-card-sized box (the lab) that tests their saliva. The box device then transmits the results to the patient’s doctor using a custom app that UC created for almost instant results.

The results of the study by researchers and engineers at UC were published in a nature journal called Microsystems & Nanoengineering.

The smartphone device was first used by UC professor Chong Ahn and his research team to test for malaria. Ahn says that the device can be used for testing numerous chronic or infectious diseases or even to measure hormones that are related to stress.

Typically, Ahn says, a patient goes into the doctor’s office and has a swab of saliva taken which then can takes several hours or perhaps days for a diagnosis to be reached, while in the meantime the disease can spread.

So how does it really work? Ahn and his team created the lab chip which utilizes natural capillary action of the tendency for a liquid to stick to a surface and then reduces the sample to two channels that is referred to as ‘micro-channel capillary flow assay.’  On one channel the saliva sample is mixed with freeze dried detection antibodies. On the other channel it is mixed with a luminescent material so that the results can be read when both channels are recombined on the three sensors.

The device is accurate, Ahn says, and simple to use and inexpensive.

Ahn and his team wanted to create a device that would be easy to use by anyone without training or support.

Sthitodhi Ghosh, who is a UC doctoral student and whose advisor is Ahn, is the study’s lead author.  He says that the whole test is rendered on the chip automatically. There’s nothing that has to be done. Ghosh says that this is the future of personal healthcare.