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Smartphone device turns 'selfie' into health monitor

Posted: 17 Dec 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cornell University? smartcard? cholesterol level? smartphone?

A team of engineers at Cornell University has developed a smartphone device that claims to read a body's cholesterol level by taking a picture of yourself, or as is commonly known, a selfie. The Smartphone Cholesterol Application for Rapid Diagnostics, or smartCARD, can read measure a person's cholesterol in about a minute, boasted the researchers.

"Smartphones have the potential to address health issues by eliminating the need for specialized equipment," said David Erickson, Cornell associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior author of the study. Thanks to advanced, sophisticated camera technology, Erickson and his colleagues have created a smartphone accessory that optically detects biomarkers in a drop of blood, sweat or saliva. The new application then discerns the results using color analysis.


Figure 1: Engineering graduate students Matthew Mancuso, left, and Vlad Oncescu demonstrate their smartCARD system on an iPhone.

When a user puts a drop of blood on the cholesterol test strip, it processes the blood through separation steps and chemical reactions. The strip is then ready for colorimetric analysis by the smartphone application.


Figure 2: David Erickson tests the smartCARD, which uses an application system to read cholesterol levels in about a minute.

The smartCARD accessory, which looks somewhat like a smartphone credit card reader, clamps over the phone's camera. Its built-in flash provides uniform, diffused light to illuminate the test strip that fits into the smartCARD reader. The application in the phone calibrates the hue saturation to the image's color values on the cholesterol test strip and the results appear on your phone.

Currently, the test measures total cholesterol. The Erickson lab is working to break out those numbers in LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol) and triglyceride measurements. The lab is also working on detecting vitamin D levels, and has previously demonstrated smartphone tests for periodontitis and sweat electrolyte levels.

The article, "Cholesterol Testing on a Smartphone," appeared in the journal Lab on a Chip, also co-authored by Vlad Oncescu and Matthew Mancuso, Cornell graduate students in the field of engineering. This study was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Engineering Research Council of Canada and Cornell's David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

"Mobile health is increasing at an incredible rate," Erickson concluded. "It's the next big thing."

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