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Smartphone App for Point-of-Care Diagnostics in Development

Colorimetrix in use


20 March 2014. Engineers at University of Cambridge in the U.K. designed a smartphone app that accurately performs tests with urine or saliva samples at the point of care. The app, called Colorimetrix, is the work of Leo Martinez-Hurtado, now a postdoctoral researcher at Technical University of Munich and Cambridge Ph.D. candidate Ali Yetisen, who published advance results of tests with the app online in the journal Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical (paid subscription required).

Colorimetrix performs colorimetric tests measuring the amount of light passing through a sample of body fluid, such as saliva or urine. A sensor detects and measures the amount of light absorbed by the sample, then relates the change in color to specific chemical reactions, as well as concentrations of target chemicals in the fluid sample.

Medical diagnostics with colorimetry are difficult to  conduct outside the lab, and up to now required expensive equipment such as spectrophotometers to get accurate and reliable results. Colorimetrix, however, makes it possible to perform these tests with a smartphone, returning results in a few seconds, or if needed, transmitted to a physician for further review.

The app uses the smartphone’s camera to snap a photo of the sample, which the app’s built-in sensor and algorithms analyze and compare to benchmarks stored in the software. The algorithms process the light waves from the specimen and calculates the concentrations of analytes. The software then returns a numerical score on the smartphone’s screen.

Yetisen, Martinez, and colleagues evaluated Colorimetrix against commercially-available test strips used with urine samples, described in the journal article. The results indicate the app accurately reports glucose, protein, and pH concentrations without the need for additional equipment. The team plans to test the app for kidney functions and infections at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, affiliated with the university.

The developers designed Colorimetrix for use in limited-resource regions to diagnose HIV, tuberculosis, or malaria at the point of care, but it can also be used to monitor chronic diseases such as diabetes, or to track transmission of medical data to health professionals in real time. Other potential applications are veterinary health and environmental testing.

The Colorimetrix team is seeking partners for further commercial development. The app is now in an early version (0.2) and available for the Android operating system from its Web site. Feasibility of an Apple iPhone (iOS) version is under review.

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