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Smartphone Apps can Detect Disease

AIDS and cancer have become some of the most widely known fatal diseases. Now, these two diseases have been linked – Kaposi sarcoma cancer has been known to cause HIV/AIDS. However, Cornell University engineers have created a new smartphone-based system, which might help detect HIV, and Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer linked to HIV/AIDS.

The smartphone-based system consists of a “plug-in optical accessory and disposable microfluidic chips, for in-the-field detection of the herpes virus that causes Kaposi Sarcoma.” David Erickson, engineer and creator of the system says that “the accessory provides an ultraportable way to determine whether or not viral DNA is present in a sample.” Erickson and his working partner, a biomedical engineer, Matthew Mancuso, have also explained that the smartphone app can also detect other maladies and health conditions including: E. Coli, Hepatitis, malaria, and other infections.

According to Mancuso, “the system is not chemically based and does not use the phone’s built in camera.” Instead, the system uses gold nanoparticles to diagnose these diseases. According to Science Daily, “gold nanoparticles are combined with short DNA snippets that bind to Kaposi’s DNA sequence,” then the particles and the Kaposi sequence are combined and added onto a microfluidic chip. If DNA is present, then particles which affect the light transmission of the solution clump together. This quickly causes a color change and allows scientists to identify if you have the disease: if the solution turns bright red, there is little to no amount of Kaposi sarcoma in your DNA, and if it turns purple, then patients are diagnosed with the disease.

For many, this is a wonderful scientific advancement. It allows users to diagnose the condition with little training.  According to Erickson, “Expert knowledge is required for almost every other means of detecting Kaposi Sarcoma,” Mancuso says. “This system doesn’t require that level of expertise.” Erickson and Mancuso are now collaborating with experts at New York City’s Weill Cornell Medical College. They plan to create a portable system for collecting, testing, and diagnosing samples that could be available for use in the developing world by next year. They also hope to broaden their scope of diagnosis to other diseases and to introduce their product to developing nations by 2015.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Business Wire, Science Daily
Photo: Afrogle