Oct 24, 2016 | By Alec

To most of us, the rise of the smartphone is about convenience. Smartphones simply take all the communicative and data solutions readily available on our desktops, and put them in convenient containers that can be accessed anywhere and at any time. But in the developing world, the advent of smartphone tech is nothing short of a technological revolution that brings hitherto unreachable computational power at the fingertips of ordinary people.

This is especially visible in the medical field, where previously unavailable diagnostic tools are suddenly being brought to the remote corners of developing countries. Until recently, a few centralized medical centers provided some level of care, in the face of woeful understaffing and lack of funding. As a result, many treatable conditions were ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Clever 3D printed accessories for smartphones are now changing this, such as the 3D printed Peek smartphone adapter (which diagnoses preventable eye diseases) and this 3D printed otoscope (which does the same for hearing loss) illustrate.

Researchers from Washington State University have now used those same 3D printing/smartphone concepts to fight cancer everywhere. Their low-cost, portable cancer laboratory is essentially a 3D printed smartphone accessory that can analyze blood samples to catch biomarkers and produce lab quality results anywhere – making it possible to catch cancer early on and avoid the need for unaffordable screening methods. This fantastic breakthrough has been realized by a team led by assistant professor Lei Li, and has just been detailed in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, in a paper entitled A multichannel smartphone optical biosensor for high-throughput point-of-care diagnostics.

But as the WSU team explains, this portable cancer screening laboratory can also be used here in the west – as the demand for high speed, reliable and cost effective medical testing is as high as ever. They therefore set out the develop a diagnostic method that can be used in a doctor’s office, an ambulance or even an emergency room.

Of course several (3D printed) smartphone spectrometers already exist, but they can usually only measure a single sample at a time – better than nothing in the developing world, but slower than existing methods everywhere else. They therefore developed an eight channel smartphone spectrometer capable of detecting human interleukin-6 (IL-6), a known biomarker for lung, prostate, liver, breast and epithelial cancers. This data is retrieved by analyzing the number and type of chemicals in a single sample, using a smartphone camera’s flash.

What’s more, this multichannel spectrometer can measure up to eight different samples simultaneously. A commonly used laboratory test called ELISA (colorimetric test enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) is used to identify antibodies and color changes as disease markers.

So far, this cancer testing device has been found to be up to 99 percent accurate, and the device is already being brought to real world situations for further testing. “With our eight channel spectrometer, we can put eight different samples to do the same test, or one sample in eight different wells to do eight different tests. This increases our device’s efficiency,” Li said on the WSU website. “The spectrometer would be especially useful in clinics and hospitals that have a large number of samples without on-site labs, or for doctors who practice abroad or in remote areas. They can’t carry a whole lab with them. They need a portable and efficient device.”

The initial design for this portable lab accessory is designed to fit an iPhone 5, but future designs will be compatible with any smartphone. A provisional patent has already been filed as well. The study was funded through the National Science Foundation and a WSU startup fund, and is part of WSU’s Grand Challenges initiative.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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