Dial a Diagnosis

Dial a Diagnosis

Docs with cell phones can make immediate diagnoses.

Almost seven billion of us use one, and now researchers say that phone you talk, text, and tweet with could one day do much more for your health.

Hannah Gooch is allergic to eggs.“We did a strict avoidance,” Necia Joy Gooch, Hannah’s mom said.

Spike Loy has diabetes. “Since I was seven and a half, I had to take between two and 10 blood tests a day,” Spike said.

Both could one day benefit from a medical breakthrough that you carry around every day. “You can imagine your cell phone working like a very advanced microscope for looking at various different specimen,” Aydogan Ozcan, PhD, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and BioEngineering, UCLA said.

Researchers at UCLA created various attachments that fit on smart phones. One can perform an HIV screening. Another one detects allergens in food. A special tube measures allergens optically with the phone’s camera.

“You can do this for peanuts or you can do this for other kinds of allergens,” Dr. Ozcan said. Other attachments measure the presence of E. coli in food, blood cell counts, and blood sugar levels.

Cell phones are less expensive than a large lab and can be used in the field with immediate results. “This platform is a very reliable means for looking at micro and nano scale things,” Dr. Ozcan explained.

So don’t be surprised if one day your doctor pulls out his cellphone to diagnose you. It’s not on the market yet, but once it is available researchers believe it will be particularly beneficial to doctors and patients in developing countries who don’t have access to advanced laboratories. 

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