Tests on a range of bodily fluids can now be conducted using a smartphone that has been slightly modified with an optical measuring system that makes it easy to monitor blood sugar levels and conduct pregnancy tests, for example, "on the road". Once the smartphone has been kitted out with this analysis tool, it could also be used for other non-medical applications such as environmental analysis. When combined with the phone's own GPS system, numerous other useful features can also be linked, such as locating the nearest pharmacy or outpatients' clinic away from home.
The research team led by Dr. Kort Bremer, Dr. Maik Rahlves, Dr. Johanna Walter and Prof. Bernhard Roth has succeeded with just a few technical adjustments in boosting the run-of-the-mill smartphone's capabilities to such a degree that it can be used to conduct biomolecular tests. The potential this unleashes is so impressive that an HOT feasibility study convinced an expert panel from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) in Berlin to award funding from the EXIST research transfer program for this endeavor. "Smartphones are already equipped with almost all the features required for turning them into mobile laboratories - camera, LED flash and sufficient computing power," explains Dr. Bremer. "When combined with a dedicated external optical sensor system, there is nothing to stop smartphones being upgraded to identify biological markers." To achieve this, a specially modified fiber-optic cable links the LED flash with a diffraction grating in front of the camera lens. Capturing the sensor's signal requires nothing more than a simple photography app.