A Star Trek-inspired handheld device for sophisticated medical diagnostics

September 24, 2018, University of Glasgow
A Star Trek-inspired handheld device based on a silicon chip could help make rapid, sophisticated medical diagnosti
Credit: University of Glasgow

A Star Trek-inspired handheld device based on a silicon chip could help make rapid, sophisticated medical diagnostics more accessible to people around the world, scientists say.

In a new paper published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, researchers from the University of Glasgow describe the latest development in their 'multicorder' project, inspired by Star Trek's famous tricorder device, which the show's medics use to make quick and accurate diagnoses.

Their new device which pairs a handheld sensor with a smartphone app to measure the levels of various metabolites in fluid samples from patients.

Metabolites are small molecules found in fluids from the human body. By measuring and monitoring their relative abundance, scientists can keep track of general heath or the progression of specific diseases.

The ability to rapidly detect and quantify multiple biomarkers simultaneously makes this device particularly useful in cases of heart attack, cancer and stroke, where rapid diagnosis is vital for effective treatment.

While metabolites can currently be measured by existing processes such as and hyphenated mass spectrometry techniques, both approaches are expensive and require bulky equipment which can be slow to offer diagnostic results.

A Star Trek-inspired handheld device based on a silicon chip could help make rapid, sophisticated medical diagnosti
Credit: University of Glasgow

The researchers' new device is built around a new form of semiconductor (CMOS) chip. CMOS chips are inexpensive to produce and are often used in imaging devices.

The chip is smaller than a fingertip and is divided into multiple reaction zones to detect and quantify four metabolites simultaneously from body fluid such as serum or urine. The device can be operated via any Android-based tablet or smartphone which provides data acquisition, computation, visualisation and power.

Dr. Samadhan Patil of the University of Glasgow's School of Engineering is lead author on the paper. Dr. Patil said: "We have been able to detect and measure multiple metabolites associated with myocardial infarction, or , and prostate cancer simultaneously using this device. This device has potential to track progression of the disease in its early phase and is ideally suited for the subsequent prognosis."

Professor David Cumming, Principal Investigator of the project from University's School of Engineering said: "Handheld, inexpensive diagnostic devices capable of accurately measuring metabolites open up a wide range of applications for medicine, and with this latest development we've taken an important step closer to bringing such a device to market."

"It's an exciting breakthrough and we're keen to continue building on the technology we've developed so far."

Professor Mike Barrett of the University's School of Life Sciences, co-investigator of the project, said: "This new handheld offers democratisation of metabolomics, which is otherwise confined within the laboratory, and offers low cost alternative to study complex pathways in different diseases."

The paper, titled "An integrated portable system for single chip simultaneous measurement of multiple disease associated ," is published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

Explore further: New sensors open door to wearable medical diagnostic device

Related Stories

Detecting metabolites at close range

June 22, 2018

A novel concept for a biosensor of the metabolite lactate combines an electron transporting polymer with lactate oxidase, which is the enzyme that specifically catalyzes the oxidation of lactate. Lactate is associated with ...

Portable biosensor warns of heart attack and stroke

February 23, 2018

A team of researchers from National Tsing Hua University and National Cheng Kung University, both in Taiwan, has developed a low-cost, portable medical sensor package that has the potential to alert users of medical issues ...

A portable device for rapid and highly sensitive diagnostics

February 22, 2016

When remote regions with limited health facilities experience an epidemic, they need portable diagnostic equipment that functions outside the hospital. As demand for such equipment grows, EPFL researchers have developed a ...

Recommended for you

A quantum magnet with a topological twist

February 22, 2019

Taking their name from an intricate Japanese basket pattern, kagome magnets are thought to have electronic properties that could be valuable for future quantum devices and applications. Theories predict that some electrons ...

Good dog? Bad dog? Their personalities can change

February 22, 2019

When dog-parents spend extra time scratching their dogs' bellies, take their dogs out for long walks and games of fetch, or even when they feel constant frustration over their dogs' naughty chewing habits, they are gradually ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.