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Smartphone Diagnostic

Researchers design a device that attaches to a smartphone to test for diverse infectious diseases from a drop of blood.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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A smartphone dongle with a disposable microfluidic cassetteTASSANEEWAN LAKSANASOPINA push of a button vacuums up a drop of blood from a finger prick, and in just 15 minutes, the device can determine if a person is infected with any of a variety of infectious diseases. The new device, developed by Columbia University’s Samuel Sia and colleagues, is designed to be hooked up to a smartphone, which provides a power source and a display for the results. Published yesterday (February 4) in Science Translational Medicine, the technology is the latest effort in smartphone diagnostics, which could bring improved health care to underdeveloped parts of the world.

The new device, which costs just $34, functions by drawing the blood sample through tiny channels containing “detection zones” designed to find antibodies in the blood suggestive of a particular pathogen’s presence. In a field test held at three Rwandan community...

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