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Outside the Lab Technology and innovation, Microbiology and immunology, Genetics and epigenetics, Laboratory management, Clinical care, Biochemistry and molecular biology, Point of care testing, Omics

A Smart Approach to Testing

At a Glance

  • Smartphones are ubiquitous – and they offer a cheaper, quicker way to access doctors and medical tests
  • We have devised a new silicon chip that amplifies pathogenic DNA and RNA; results can be read by a smartphone
  • The aim is to offer faster, more affordable diagnostics at the point of care, which will be especially valuable in resource-limited settings
  • The current device is a prototype – but, when scaled up, it will offer a range of human, veterinary and environmental tests

Did you know that the average person spends over four hours per day on their mobile phone (1)? And although smartphones are becoming indispensable tools for business and entertainment, they also have the potential to transform the way we interact with the health system. With computers in our pockets, it should be easy to get more immediate, more convenient, and lower-cost access to doctors. Infectious diseases are one application where getting immediate results from a test, rather than waiting several days for samples to be sent to a lab and cultured, is very important. Speed can limit the spread of a virus among animal or human populations. It can identify a dangerous bacterial species in food preparation or in the hospital before it causes an epidemic. Infectious diseases also represent one of the leading causes of death in resource-limited parts of the world. In those places more than anywhere else, an inexpensive point-of-care test can have an enormous impact.

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About the Author

Brian Cunningham

Willett Professor of Engineering and Director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Department of Bioengineering, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.

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